Fifteen years ago, smartphones seemed like something from science fiction; now they’re nearly 1.9 billion worldwide. So what’s the next big thing? Wearable health technology. Wearables encourage wearers to be more engaged in their health and lifestyle improvements. They are visible reminders to exercise, take medications, or get a better night’s sleep.
Besides being fashionable accessories, today’s wearables also gather data that offers clinicians insights into their patients’ health in a way never seen before. Wearable technology is becoming a critical component in individual health care and population health management. What benefits does this developing technology offer the healthcare professional?
Real Time Data collection
Wearables can already collect an array of data like activity levels, sleep and heart rate, among others. These metrics are critical information for providers dealing with patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Shortly, wearables will most likely collect additional biometric data like blood glucose levels and blood pressure through non-invasive sensors in real time.
Leveraging the increasing amounts of device-generated data continues to be a challenge, however. Clinicians do not have time to go through the data in search of useful information. The development of infrastructure to support the analysis and delivery of clinical notifications will help make these devices more useful for monitoring patients at all risk levels.
Unregulated wearable devices can never take the place of FDA approved devices in a clinical setting, but wearables provide contextual, continuous data instead of a snapshot in time that clinical monitoring provides. A visit to the doctor’s office allows the physician to measure a heart rate at that specific moment, for example, and decisions are made based on that bit of information. Seeing a week’s worth, or longer, of that relevant data, will improve analysis of the patient’s health and outcomes.
Predict and alerting
In patients with conditions such as congestive heart failure, life-threatening behaviors can include changes in sleep and activity levels. Data collected by wearables can be used to predict an increased risk of a potentially fatal health event and alert healthcare providers that an intervention might be needed.
Most patients want to have a role in improving their health. These devices are allowing patients to interact with their health and lifestyle behaviors in an unprecedented way. Patients who are more aware of the immediate repercussions of their lifestyle choices are likely more motivated to change and understand long-term effects as well.
Consumer-focused, affordable devices are sure to be a critical component of the future of healthcare. As the industry shifts focus to positive patient outcomes, the benefits of incorporating wearables in individual patient care and population health management is increasingly undeniable.