Health Experts Warn of Tech-Fuelled Hypochondria

By Gary Cutlack on at

Doctoring experts from the Royal College of Surgeons are worried that we might be worrying way too much about our health, as an avalanche of vague lifestyle advice from today's gadgets will have us stressing about every elevated heart rate and warm flush.

On the one hand, some health gadgets may indeed be able to spot the early warning signs of a potentially serious ailment that's best treated quickly, but there's also the possibility that worrying over every vague health notification might stress us and inevitably end up adding to the burden placed on the NHS, as people make appointments because a smartwatch told them they didn't sleep very well last night and the algorithm suggests sleep apnea and potential instant death tonight.

Neurosurgeon and RCS member Richard Kerr calls such people of the near-future the "worried well," and explained: "Right now, most patients see their doctor when they fall sick or unexplained symptoms prompt them to seek medical advice. However, very soon there will be an immense amount of health information available to patients, whether through data recorded by personal wearable devices and sensors, or a greater understanding of our genetic predisposition to future illnesses."

Hence GPs and A&E staff need to be prepared for waves of healthy people in their twenties turning up and saying it's an emergency because they ran up some stairs and their wearable wondered what was happening to their hearts, then tried to open up a Google Hangouts conversation with 999. [Royal College of Surgeons]