HRS urges consumers to direct questions about wearables’ data to clinicians


With much of the public now wearing devices on their wrists or elsewhere capable of recording a range of vital signs, including heart rate abnormalities, the Heart Rhythm Society launched a guide for American consumers about wearables and the data they collect during a session on Jan. 9 at CES 2020 in Las Vegas.

Dr. Nassir F. Marrouche, professor of medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Nassir F. Marrouche

While providing a succinct but comprehensive overview of the types of wearables and the health metrics they can record, the main and recurring message of the 10-page e-pamphlet is that, when a layperson has a question or concern about their data, the best course is to consult a clinician.

The “Guidance for Wearable Health Solutions,” produced by the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) along with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA, which presents the annual CES exhibition), cautions that “most wearables are primarily suited for fitness and wellness,” and stresses that wearables “are not a substitute for medical devices prescribed by a clinician.” And in all cases, the document advises, when questions arise about the data – including an apparently high heart rate; a reading the device identifies as abnormal; and when symptoms appear such as a rapid heart rate, dizziness, or fluttering or flopping of the heart – the response that the guidance advocates is consistent: Talk with your clinician.

“Heart Rhythm Society members are seeing more and more patients with their own data collected by wearables,” said Nassir F. Marrouche, MD, professor of medicine and director of electrophysiology at Tulane University, New Orleans, and a member of the panel that wrote the guidance document for the HRS and CTA. “Every provider is dealing with consumer wearable data. The need is important for consumers to be supported. Consumers and patients are buying over-the-counter devices and using them for diagnosis and management, with little to no guidance, and we want to help them feel supported in managing their data and understand what to do with it,” Dr. Marrouche said in an interview.

“This is a new reality in medicine; the direction of information is changing. Consumers are collecting data themselves and coming to physicians already informed. There is a new shift in how information is collected, shared, and used.” Dr. Marrouche was 1 of 5 cardiac electrophysiologists who served on the 11-member writing group.

Christina Wurster, chief strategy officer, Heart Rhythm Society, Washington

Christina Wurster

The new document for consumers “addresses an unmet need,” and the HRS collaboration with the CTA was “a unique opportunity to develop useful guidance that supports education and empowers consumers,” said Christina Wurster, chief strategy officer for the HRS in Washington and a member of the writing panel. “The questions outlined in the document are questions our members receive daily. The document is a resource they can direct people to.”

The HRS and CTA will “partner with consumer advocacy groups and professional societies to further disseminate the document,” added Ms. Wurster. “We’ll also have a strong push on social media to reach consumer audiences and drive awareness of this new resource,” she said in an interview. In addition, HRS “has strategic partnerships with other societies and will aim to work with them for dissemination, including societies related to internal medicine, emergency medicine, cardiology, and nursing, as well as also working with patient and consumer advocacy groups to reach the public.” The CTA will also actively publicize and disseminate the guidance document through their members.


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