Can Wearables Help Measure Patient Outcomes?

Nature Journal
Image Credit: Nature

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh published a systematic review in Nature that aimed to determine the current evidence base and reporting quality for mobile digital health interventions (DHI) in the postoperative period following surgery.

Methodology – After screening 6,969 articles for patients undergoing surgeries where postoperative outcomes were measured using DHIs (defined as mobile technologies to improve health system efficiency and health outcomes), 44 studies were included in the final review.

Results – The review indicated that several types of mobile phone- or wearables-generated data can improve the assessment of postoperative recovery:

  • patient-reported outcome data (from validated self-report tools)
  • continuous activity data (from wearables)
  • combining remote assessment with active clinical prompts or patient advice

DHI Shortcomings – Studies included in the analysis demonstrated that DHIs may facilitate patient recovery following major operations and reduce inappropriate service use, although they also revealed issues with the current evidence base that should be addressed:

  • patients are rarely engaged in the development of DHIs
  • only one study was designed to engage patients in reviewing their own data
  • high levels of exclusion exist for patients without relevant mobile technology


The increasing availability of high quality mobile technologies provides a new bridge between clinical services and patients’ homes, and while the authors of the study are optimistic about the technology, they stress the importance of improving reporting standards if its potential is to be fulfilled.

Going forward, the researchers suggest that studies of DHIs in postoperative settings seek to provide meaningful comparisons to non-DHI care in order to demonstrate clinical value, with particular attention paid to reporting quality so that equitable comparisons can be made to existing research.

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