New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), along with many other providers, have begun outfitting patients with FitBits and other wearables to gather more data about them.
Although the data from trackers may not be absolutely precise, providers are more concerned with patterns than accuracy, says Jodi Daniel, former director of the consumer e-Health program for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the ONC’s director of the Office of Policy.
MSK will be using trackers to monitor patients’ sleeping habits, mobility, and moods. Other providers are using them to gauge patient health and stamina before starting chemotherapy treatment, or — as in the case of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers — during treatment, as in a new study examining what impact weight-loss programs might have in an overweight cancer patient’s treatment plan.
Jennifer Ligibel, MD, a breast oncologist at the center and lead investigator of the BWEL (Breast Cancer Weight Loss) trial, elaborates:
The increased risk of cancer recurrence linked to excess body weight threatens to limit our progress in treating breast cancer and preventing women from dying from this disease. If this study shows that losing weight through increasing physical activity and reducing calories improves survival rates in breast cancer, this could lead to weight loss and physical activity becoming a standard part of the treatment for millions of breast cancer patients around the world.
Although the application may vary, the intent is ultimately the same across providers. As Laura Gandrud, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota states, “We need to capitalize on new technology that allows us to look at their data more frequently than every three months when they come in for their regularly scheduled checkup at the hospital.”