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Negative feedback from health monitoring devices

Health is more than the sum of laboratory results and monitoring figures. In the same way, quality of life needs to reflect more than just observations.

I want to share my experience of a relative who is under at-home digital monitoring, which she started after she had a heart complaint. The tests are simple, done at home, and include taking her own weight and using a pulse oximeter for pulse and oxygen saturation. When I checked her inhaler technique, I identified that she had been mixing her preventer and reliever up. Between the two days her oxygen saturation improved from 89% to 95%, which we were both pleased with. What surprised me was the electronic response from the monitoring device “according to your results you appear to be not feeling well today”. This was the same message on both days. This information was not useful because the results had improved but the comment stung. The results were better but the enforcement was the same: ‘you appear to be unwell’. If people keep hearing such negative enforcement at some point they will eventually start to believe it regardless of how they feel and this may lead to possible health deterioration.

Much is impressed upon us about the power of positive thinking, but perhaps we should more look at the effects of the negativity from our increased use of self-monitoring devices.

Georgina Watson

Eastleigh, Hampshire

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202683

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