Yale researchers compare BACTrack Skyn ​​to other alcohol monitoring approaches

New wearable biosensors that detect alcohol consumption from sweat could one day help us track our drinking as easily as the Fitbit helps us track our steps. Traditional transdermal alcohol biosensor technology, worn around the ankle and often used to monitor abstinence in the justice system, has limited utility as a lifestyle tracker due to its bulky size and disruption other health behaviors like exercise and sleep. A new generation of wrist-worn transdermal alcohol biosensors may have wider appeal and applicability. Laboratory studies of this new technology are promising, but field trials under real conditions are needed.

Yale School of Medicine researchers recently conducted a field study of the BACTrack Skyn, the most promising of these new wrist-worn alcohol biosensors, and provided it to 47 young adult heavy drinkers to wear in the conditions of everyday life. The study, published in Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research and part of a larger trial of mobile health technology for alcohol prevention in young adults, was funded by NIH grants to Lisa Fucito, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry.

In addition to the Skyn, participants wore a traditional ankle alcohol biosensor and kept an electronic daily alcohol diary. Young adults rated the Skyn ​​as the most acceptable among these 3 alcohol self-monitoring methods. The Skyn ​​also accurately detected alcohol consumption, but researchers were unable to derive automated rules capable of detecting alcohol consumption in various contexts. For example, the signal threshold indicating alcohol consumption was different for the first half of the second half of the enrolled participants. Additionally, accuracy decreased when the same devices were used over time.

“The Skyn ​​has great potential,” said lead author Garrett Ash, PhD, research associate at the Yale Center for Medical Informatics and health research associate at the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System. “Not only is it more comfortable than ankle sensors, it also samples alcohol consumption readings more often, every 20 seconds rather than every 30 minutes, providing a huge data stream for further analysis. sophisticated in lab studies.We were excited to try it in a field study, but encountered limitations in accuracy that should be addressed with improved equipment and analysis.

Fucito, lead author, added, “Young adults are an ideal group for this study, given their preference for health technologies and their ease in using them. Also, many of them indulge in binge drinking or binge drinking, but are often unaware of the dangerous alcohol levels they reach because of this drinking. So more instant tools are needed to help young adults drink more safely. »

Other Yale researchers who participated in the study included Ralitza Gueorguieva, PhD; Wuyi Wang, PhD; Kelly DeMartini, Ph.D.; Brian Pittman, MS; Nancy Redeker, PhD; and Stephanie O’Malley, PhD; David Robledo, former Yale graduate associate; and Brown University faculty member Nancy Barnett, PhD.

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