How often have you witnessed your grandpa or a random elderly in a park checking his wrist device for heart rate after a brisk walk or a demanding chore. This is what technology has bestowed us with, a medium to monitor any abnormalities round-the-clock and tackle them before any serious damage.
Today, we are a lot more proactive when it comes to health. In the olden times, people had to walk or travel all the way to a doctor’s clinic to get a routine check-up. Sounds a bit costly. Often the symptoms went unnoticed and minor issues untreated, creating a bigger problem. A slight upsurge in sugar levels meant hell breaking loose for the sweet elderly.
The healthcare technology market, specifically the wearables, is on a surge, and this advancement will adhere to leading wearable technology soon ending in the hands of consumers and US businesses.
Few Instances of ‘Wearable Tech in Healthcare’
From fitness trackers, Apple Watch and Google Glass to Microsoft’s HoloLens, wearable technology in healthcare has come a long way. Here’s a small list of wearables some of us are dependent on for whatever reason:
- Smart Health Watches
- Smart Glasses
- Wearable Fitness Trackers
- Wearable Blood Pressure Monitors
- Wearable ECG Monitors
- Biosensors (diagnostic and assistive devices)
How is Healthcare Leveraging Wearable Tech?
You have probably heard of common health wearables like Garmin, FitBit and Apple Watch. These are all household words and are instantly distinguishable when seen on a family member or relative’s wrist. Wearable devices not only help patients and non-patients keep full track of their health, but also in a way that is less petrifying. It also makes gaining insights into their daily health and exercise levels a fun experience.
There is no other room for wearable technology for patients but that of improvement. For instance, the next generation of Apple’s watches will support glucose monitoring feature for people with diabetes.
MC10, a tech company, has developed wearable patches for cardiac monitoring and ECG recordings. Not so long ago, in collaboration with L’Oreal they built the first-ever skin sensor that detects UVB and UVA exposure.
While we’re at it, let’s not forget smart glasses and how they’re nothing less than a blessing for the visually impaired. What’s more, in the last 25 years, the number of visually impairment cases has actually diminished, as the assistive technologies have improved. Big companies like Microsoft for years have been building 3D soundscape technologies, initiating many startups and even braille watchmakers. Consequently, over the last few years a gamut of products have surfaced and they leverage leading technology, with main focus on intuitive functionality.
Wearables are casually used in the healthcare industry, specifically the hospitals.
Doctors and nurses use wearable technology to keep a thorough and uninterrupted monitoring of a patient’s vitals and conditions. This has helped increase their efficiency and reduced the time involved in typical methods of gathering health data, and more.
Google Glass is a beautiful example of how healthcare is leveraging wearable technology make optimum use in achieving the great. The technology is a great help to doctors, especially during surgeries.
Pierre Theodore, MD, was the first surgeon to perform a surgery using Google Glass. Leveraging the tech, he was able to load CT and X-ray images prior to the surgery.
To quote him, “It makes it easier with those X-rays having in your sight right away without having to exit the operation theatre or to log on to a system elsewhere. With Google Glass you don’t have to turn yourself away from the patient or divert your attention. It helps keep your attention where it belongs, which is 100 percent of the time, your patient.”
With technological advancement at its current pace, we will soon get to witness a combination of wearables and healthcare robotics in hospitals. The eyeglasses-mounted camera will let the surgeons record or livestream the surgery procedures. It could also act as an auxiliary surgical tool.
The coolest feature of all however is that while the doctor is wearing glasses, patient notes or data like X-rays emerge on the screen within his peripheral vision. This lets him access the data without having to leave the room or pause the surgery.
Wearable Health Tech and Telecare
However, that’s not all they do. Wearable technology is capable of so much more when it comes to telehealth. They can alarm or alert the caretakers, or the facility, if a patient dawdles away from home or if there is an emergency situation for instance, a gas leak. In these kind of situations it triggers a sensor in the home.
Those times aren’t far, when wearables will be able to auto-monitor certain patient conditions or body’s warnings like blood pressure and balance. Once they detect something’s off, they will alert the caretakers.
It’s All About Data!
Yes, the entire game revolves around data and what can be achieved from that data. This data from wearable technology can be of good use in clinical trials to refine the way patients are being treated at present.
In general, at present, the data from wearable technology can be used to generate a clearer and more explanatory depiction of what can be done with an experimental drug, placebos or devices as they become a part of our everyday lives.
While they are proving to be a good source of gathering information like sleep hours, heart rate or any physical activity you perform, arguments surrounding this area still reflect skepticism.
The core problem is that this data from our wearables is mainly being collected by tech companies and not scientific researchers. While tech giants like Apple may possess the essential skills, they were not established with the main purpose of triggering any medical advances.
It’s true that wearable technology is quite useful for gathering simple data points like your heart rate during a work-out session or your sleep. But that’s all it can do for now. It cannot help dispense a clinical analysis.
In a nutshell, tech giants cannot sustain R&D or drug discovery all by themselves. They would need expert help to make sense of the data and understand any medical assertions.
Moreover, for that to take place, giants like Apple and Fitbit would need to collaborate with experts from scientific research turf. Pharma companies and academic groups to suggest a few.
The Future of Wearables
First of all, it’s important to understand that change in healthcare is directly proportional to technological advancements and when it comes to the advancement of technology, only the sky’s the limit.There are numerous medical apps for wearable devices, and the market is predicted to expand. Wearable technology has deeply embedded itself into our lives. So much that health-monitoring devices like FitBits and smartwatches are considered somewhat mainstream. As for the future of wearable technology, upward is the direction.
According to Juniper Research, By 2023, wearables like remote patient monitoring devices and health trackers will become a prerequisite and generate as much as $20 billion annually. In contrast, the assistive hearables (connected hearing aids), by year 2022, will beget the revenues of around $40 billion.
It’s not just a fancy prediction. It’s a peek into the wearable technology’s future, published in a study earlier this year.
There’s more, according to Juniper Research’s study,
‘AI-powered wearable tech will soon take the healthcare sector by storm. More and more tools are being embraced to help health institutes and organizations upgrade their services, reduce risks through optimized standard care and help generate more revenue.’
Yes, this is the impact wearable technology has on healthcare industry and it is colossal.
Still a Long Way to Go..
Regardless of who it benefits; doctors, nurses, patients or hospitals overall, wearables are a burgeoning technology and their adoption rate is still taking its baby steps. Wearable technology has a long way to go and maybe pretty soon we’ll get to witness technology bestow us with something similar to those miraculous medical pods from Minority Report. Amen!