Patient-generated health data may be a matter for contention now, but a trade association for consumer wearable companies says its recent research suggests that acceptance of the data by physicians is nearing.

A report by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) predicts that the U.S. could reach a “tipping point” of physicians using patient-generated data from devices such as wearables by 2020.

The group says the report’s findings were based on studying other industry research and on a series of interviews with “key U.S. healthcare industry stakeholders,” including physicians, insurance industry executives, clinical informaticists and experts in the field of digital health technology.

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“A range of technological and social forces are converging that will make patient-generated health data an important part of the clinical landscape by 2020,” says James Mault, MD, vice president and chief medical officer of Qualcomm Life and chairman of CTA’s Health and Fitness Technology Division.

Incentives from insurers and employers are spurring consumers to use wearable devices, and they’ll assist providers in offering treatment prescriptions that are more attuned to individuals, Mault predicts.

“As health insurers and employers begin to use technology to incentivize subscribers to improve their health, consumers will take a more active role in their own healthcare,” he adds. “This enables the medical professional community to deliver patient-specific precision medicine and move from episodic care to a continuous care model based on real-time health data.”

The CTA report, “Wearable Health and Fitness Technology in U.S. Medical Care,” lays out the opportunities, challenges, regulatory drivers and industry initiatives that will drive the broad use of patient-generated health data in clinical settings in the next three years.

The lack of integration of devices with electronic health record systems is just one of the challenges of the devices, and the information they generate, within the medical community. Also, medical professionals are concerned about standards and the efficacy of the health and fitness trackers on the market today. Last October, CTA attempted to address the latter issue with the release of two new standards for wearable health and fitness trackers, defining terms and functionality for step counting wearables and sleep measuring devices.

Additionally, in recognition of consumers’ desire for privacy, CTA’s Health and Fitness Technology Division developed Guiding Principles on the Privacy and Security of Personal Wellness Data, a set of voluntary guidelines for private sector organizations that handle personal wellness data.

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CTA predicts that the total wearables market in 2017 in the U.S.—including other health and fitness devices and smartwatches—is expected to generate shipments of 48 million unit sales, which would be a 14 percent increase over 2016.

“More consumers are now harnessing wearable technology and personal data, giving them a greater ability to lead healthier lives,” said Steve Koenig, senior director, Market Research, CTA. “By using this connectivity to cultivate and analyze individual data, healthcare can be more personalized, more democratized and ultimately more effective.”

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