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Uncertainty in Current and Future Health Wearables

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Credit: Greentech

There is demonstrable appeal in consumer-wearable devices like activity trackers, having now been used by approximately 10% of American adults to track measures of their fitness or well-being.4 Because activity trackers are most commonly used for motivating a change in behavior toward modest personal fitness goals or healthy activity levels over time,8 it is easy to forget they are also used to inform more critical decision making and serious investigations of self, including tracking ongoing health conditions and disease progression;24 tracking mood, with potential implications for mental-health treatment;4 and self-diagnosing problems involving health or other concerns.22

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These popular uses expose the potential variability of "uncertainty tolerance" among multiple users.12 Those undertaking a serious investigation of self require a certain level of precision and data accuracy, as well as details regarding correlations between variables, whereas salient information for those with a casual interest in their fitness may simply want to know whether they have met some target or are generally improving over time. Technological advances, both recent and on the horizon for health wearables, are predicted by some experts to enable breakthroughs in disease prevention, prediction, and management, areas for which uncertainty tolerance differs significantly from that of the wearable consumer.10 In addition to existing health wearables that claim to measure blood pressure, breathing rate, and mood or emotions and stress through galvanic skin response, wearables may soon be able to measure or infer health indicators like blood glucose, calories consumed, hydration, and heart strain (for details, see


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