Fitness Trackers, Not so Accurate After All


As employers continue to push  employee health improvement or Wellness programs, they are looking at gathering more “validated” results instead of relying on the always questionable self reported data.  In particular the tracking of physical activity is one that has gotten much attention and companies now hand out Fitbits, Garmin devices, Jawbones and even Apple watches to track people’s walking and running. These are often tied to incentives for participation and many are associated with premium reductions.

The question is, just how accurate are these things and might there be some negative legal liability associated with their use?  I can tell you from having used a few including Fitbits, Garmin, and Basis as well as some GPS trackers, there are clearly issues, which I’ve highlighted in other posts. For instance, one can often get more steps for driving on a bumpy road, brushing one’s teeth, drying off after a shower and a myriad of other ways.  On the flip side, some devices worked while I was operating a power mower and others did not count any steps at all.

Now an article comes out that places even further doubt regarding the use of some of these devices.  You can read it here:

Some Fitness Trackers Vulnerable to monitoring

Issues they discovered included:

  • Data being sent unencrypted across the internet
  • The ability to monitor these devices even when not being used and
  • “Hilts demonstrated for CBC News how he was able to send false “walking data” to his Jawbone UP 2 account to make it appear he walked one million steps on a recent Saturday.”

Each of these examples calls into question the use of these devices for programs that can result in severe financial penalties for employees.

As you look to develop your employee health improvement program, be sure you go in with your eyes wide open, really understand the culture of your organization, and how this will positively or negatively impact it, get your employees involved in the design and ongoing operations of the program, define what you want your program to accomplish and be sure you have a valid way to measure your results.

Because validated might not be validated after all.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Fitness Trackers, Not so Accurate After All

  1. Pingback: Me and My Apple Watch | Accountable Health

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