In recent years, everyone is talking about wearables making them an everyday smart device for the masses. But what are wearables? They refer to smart electronic multisensory devices that can be worn on the body or incorporated into clothing. In the case of healthcare, the interest is in fitness/activity trackers such as wristbands or smartwatches. Such devices provide exciting opportunities as they enable non-invasive, constantly vigilant, and low-cost monitoring of the individual's condition.
What data can be collected?
In terms of data, there are many parameters that can be collected by commercially available wearable devices, such as steps, activity type, activity time, calories burned, heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygenation, sleep quality, sleep amount, body temperature, gait analysis, and blood pressure. In the case of determining patients' quality of life, for a specific quality of life issue, clinicians identify the initial data collection requirements and in the next step independently select parameters from wearables of interest to the specific quality of life issue and prioritize them to decide which makes more sense to analyze.
Are there any challenges?
The ASCAPE consortium includes organizations that have used wearables in their scientific research before. According to their experience of using such devices by patients, they acknowledge many barriers to their use, especially at older ages. First, the need to use smartphones, apps, and Bluetooth are usually reasons for not participating/withdrawing from clinical trials. Additionally, due to the limited data storage space of wearables, synchronization issues contribute to additional confusion for participants. As a result, the majority of clinical trial participants need help using the wearable during the first months of such trials. There are still additional challenges. A major concern for end-users of such devices is the security and privacy of their data. To address such risks an impact analysis and mitigation plan must be developed and implemented. Beyond these risks that must be carefully addressed, the use of these devices offers a vast source of data that has not been studied and exploited until recently in the field of healthcare and in particular in the quality of life of cancer patients.
The ASCAPE example
As it became apparent, there are many reasons for our project to use wearable devices to take advantage of data coming in from cancer patients to get a complete picture of their quality of life and recommend evidence-based interventions to their doctors, beyond the challenges posed. In fact, three of the ASCAPE pilots (Athens, CareAcross, and Örebro) include the input of wearables in their designs. Using the process discussed above, we chose to measure parameters from wearables such as steps, activity type, activity time, calories burned, heart rate, sleep quality, and sleep quantity. Finally, ASCAPE has taken all necessary steps to ensure the security, privacy, and anonymity of the data collected both at the device level and at the cloud/storage level, complying with the strictest EU and national rules.