Wearable Devices May Help Predict Cancer Side Effects, Hospitalizations


Wearable fitness devices can offer valuable insights for patients with cancer and the doctors treating them.

Wearable fitness devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, can help patients track their activity levels, thereby providing important information to their cancer care providers, Dr. Nitin Ohri explained in a recent interview with CURE®.

Ohri, who is a radiation oncologist at the Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, New York, recently led research about wearable fitness trackers and their potential in the oncology setting. He mentioned that the device data, which can include information such as step counts, indicating activity levels, may offer better insight to how a patient’s health is fairing compared with their functional status, a more subjective measure that clinicians assign to their patients based on how independently they can perform their daily tasks.

While more research still has to be conducted, Ohri said that the information provided by wearable fitness devices may eventually be able to inform clinicians about what kind of treatments patients may or may not be able to tolerate, along with predicting future hospitalizations.


As the data is collected and shared with the clinicians, I think there's a great opportunity for the clinician to get a better understanding of the patient's functional status. The activity data like step counts, I think, is far more objective and, in the end, will be far more meaningful than more subjective measures such as the performance status that we assigned to patients, which is very subjective and often misleading.

So the potential benefit to the patients would be that their clinicians have a better understanding of how the patients are doing and what kind of aggressive treatments they are likely to tolerate or not tolerate, or perhaps proceed when there's a risk for severe toxicity or hospitalization in the next few days, that could be predicted by the wearable device data.

Unfortunately, I don't think we're there yet. Most patients are not given these devices, and certainly most clinicians are not used to looking at activity data. So at present, I believe it's still something where we need to do a lot of clinical research to make this something that becomes more standard.

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