News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel

News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
Sign In

Smartwatch-based Fitness Apps Gaining Popularity Over Other Fitness Wearables such as Fitbit. Will This Affect the Data Clinical Laboratories See Streaming Their Way?

Consumer demand for health trackers combined with other smartwatch capabilities is driving a trend away from simple health trackers and toward more complex devices, such as the Apple Watch, for their more powerful capabilities

It is still an open question as to whether clinical laboratories will experience an onrush of patient test data streaming at them from healthcare consumer portals and mobile devices. The popularity of wearable fitness/medical technology has been widely touted in the media. Predictions have been that these devices—when coupled with smartphone and tablet applications (apps)—would generate substantial volumes of digital patient data that would be useful for medical laboratories to capture and add to the clinical lab test data of the patients they serve.

But will these predictions of a flood of data from wearable devices become reality? Is this a trend about which medical laboratories should be concerned? Recent statistics provide some insight into these questions. For example, the sales numbers for wearable devices are significant.

Smartwatches Gaining Ground in Wearable Fitness Market

In 2016, 102.4 million wearable devices were sold, which was a 25% increase over the previous year, according to Smart Insights, a publisher for marketers. Now, several sports apparel companies, such as Adidas and Under Armour, are either launching smartwatches with health/fitness-related software and activity trackers, or eliminating their digital fitness business units altogether.

And according to MobiHealthNews, “[today’s] landscape looks awfully different.

“I think the industry is still struggling to find real, meaningful points of reference with consumers,” Dan Ledger, Principal and Founder, Path Collaborative, a Massachusetts consulting firm, told MobiHealthNews. “You hear anecdotes of people who had Fitbit (NYSE:FIT) and lost weight. But it hasn’t really been a success as a market product like a smartphone—like a lot of these companies were expecting when they were reading the tea leaves four or five years ago.”

For example, Adidas reassigned employees working in the fitness watch and sensor-enabled footwear departments to other areas, according to the Portland Business Journal. “We are integrating digital across all areas of our business and will continue to grow our digital expertise but in a more integrated way,” an Adidas spokesperson told Just-Style.

And, Nike announced its intention late last year to abandon the wearables market altogether. “It wasn’t authentic to who we were,” Jordan Rice, Senior Director of Nike NXT Smart Systems Engineering, told MobiHealthNews.

Meanwhile, Under Armour announced in 2017 that it planned to eliminate the UA HealthBox, a wearable device that offered a connected activity tracker, heart rate monitor, and smart scale tools, according to MHealth Spot. Instead, the publication reported, Under Armour was partnering with Samsung on fitness apps:

  • MyFitnessPal;
  • MapMyFitness;
  • Endomondo; and,
  • UA Record.

More Consumers Strapping on Smartwatches

Fitbit recently released the Fitbit Ionic Watch. According to Fitbit’s website, features include:

  • Personal coaching;
  • Heart rate monitor;
  • All-day activity tracking;
  • Sleep stages monitoring; and more.

The smartwatch may be the new “smart” way to go, compared to simple activity trackers. Smartwatch manufactures are partnering with biometric monitoring app developers (such as Apple Watch and IBM Watson Health, shown above) to service consumers who need to monitor, capture, and distribute their critical health data. (Photo copyright: Alexey Boldin/Shutterstock.)


Consumer Reports, citing NPD Group market data, noted smartwatches are increasingly becoming the device-of-choice for consumers who gather fitness data. Besides tracking heart rate, some smartwatch apps also release notifications about accomplishment of goals, enable access to e-mail, and more.

Consumer Reports noted:

  • Smartwatches were used by 17% of US adults in the first quarter of 2015, and the remaining 83% in the demographic used activity trackers;
  • Smartwatch use jumped to 38% by the fourth quarter of 2017; and,
  • Smartwatches will rise to 48% of new market purchases by the fourth quarter this year.

Hardware is Hard

Fitness wearable devices have long been touted by the media for their potential to stream critical health data directly to physicians, to patients’ electronic health records, and to medical laboratories. Dark Daily foresaw in 2016 that, when paired with a smartphone or table computer, the momentum of the fitness wearables trend was substantial. For this reason, clinical laboratory managers and pathologists would want to stay current with these developments. However, today it appears companies offering wearable monitoring devices could be finding it more difficult than anticipated to capture the attention of consumers and leverage what the devices do.

In the end, sports apparel companies are not leaving the digital fitness space entirely, but simply adjusting to new consumer demands. Clinical laboratory leaders will want to keep watch on these developments as the trend evolves. The outcome could alter how patient data enters the pathology workflow.

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

Digital Marketing Strategy Wearables Statistics 2017

Sports Apparel Brands are All Walking Away from Fitness Wearables

Under Armour Kills the HealthBox Suite of Connected Devices

Adidas to Cut Digital Sports Division

Fitness Tracker or Smartwatch: Which is Best for You?

Improvements to Fitness Wearables Help Stream Data from Consumers Homes to EHRs and Clinical Pathology Laboratories

Improvements to Fitness Wearables Help Stream Data from Consumers’ Homes to EHRs and Clinical Pathology Laboratories

As technologies used by fitness wearables mature, medical laboratories will want to develop ways to access and process the flood of data that will become available

Point-of-care testing and remote patient monitoring are two technologies that could be disruptive to the clinical laboratory industry, particularly if use of these devices was to reduce the volume of patient specimen that are referred to the nation’s large, centralized medical laboratories.

This is one reason why savvy pathologists watch the stream of new products designed to allow athletes and consumers to monitor their fitness and other characteristics of good health. These devices are at the very front of the curve for remote monitoring of an athlete’s performance during training and competition, as well as enabling consumers to track different parameters of their health. What’s a toy for today’s sophisticated consumers could later be easily adopted for clinical diagnostic purposes.

One great example of how swiftly technology advances are changing remote diagnostic monitoring involves heart rate monitors. It wasn’t long ago that even basic heart rate monitors were a pricey purchase for consumers. But thanks to strong interest in gathering healthcare data, costs are dropping. (more…)

Google Files Patent for Needle-free Blood Draw System That Could Eventually Remove Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups from the Process

Patent filing describes a device that is intended to allow patients to collect their own blood specimens without the need for needles

Google, (now known as Alphabet, Inc.; NASDAQ:GOOG) recently filed an application for another patent that deals with medical laboratory test technology. This patent application is for a needle-free blood draw system that enables patients to perform diagnostic testing on themselves.

The new system is designed to replace painful finger pricks and deliver diagnostic test results digitally to providers’ electronic health record (EHR) systems. Should the technology make it through clinical trials, widespread adoption of such a device could have sweeping implications for pathologists and clinical laboratories across America. (more…)

Samsung’s New All-in-One Bio-Processor Chip Launches Amid Controversy Among Physicians and Medical Laboratory Professionals over the True Value of Wearable Health-monitoring Devices

Samsung is introducing a new, wearable, all-in-one chip for monitoring and processing health data that has the potential to test for common medical laboratory test biomarkers

Leading the drive to create wearable diagnostic devices are companies manufacturing products designed to serve the markets for consumer fitness and consumer wellness. Now a major electronics company says it has a new chip that will redefine how consumers and patients use wearable monitoring and diagnostic devices.

Samsung Electronics has already begun production of this new chip. Its Bio-Processor chip is different from the chips contained in other wearable devices currently on the market in that it is an “all-in-one” chip that could alter how wearable technology functions. Therefore, this new product has the potential to do some diagnostic testing that is currently performed in medical laboratories.

Currently, most wearable devices marketed to consumers for improving health and fitness measure steps and heart rate. The new chip from Samsung is claimed to be capable of considerably more.

A Single Chip for Generating Copious Amounts of Big Data (more…)

Pathologists Could Have DNA Sequencing Device That Connects to a Smartphone and Can Produce Immediate Results from Several Types of Medical Laboratory Samples

At the proposed $1,000 price tag, Biomeme’ mobile clinical laboratory device has the potential to challenge diagnostic systems used in central laboratories

Another smartphone gadget capable of performing diagnostic laboratory tests is headed for the marketplace, and only time will tell if it proves to be a threat to the in vitro diagnostics industry.

Developers say that, when paired with a smartphone, this diagnostic device is similar to traditional medical laboratory technology 10 times its size. Called Biomeme, it is a system that  diagnoses diseases like a clinical laboratory—but is just the size of a can of cola. It can identify DNA signatures of bacteria or viruses in a sample of saliva, blood or urine, according to a story that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. (more…)