Wearable technology in healthcare

Coming out of its shell and dissolving the silos, the healthcare sector is openly and widely embracing the digitally disruptive processes. The industry is burgeoning with innovative solutions for delivering enhanced care to the patients.

It is evident from the favourable statistics showcasing that over 1800 hospitals in the U.S. utilise mobile applications, while 92 per cent of the hospitals have a patient portal solution in place revealed that 70 per cent of consumers would rather use video consulting than visit their primary care provider in person.

With the advent of technology, wearable health devices are increasingly helping people to better monitor their health status both at an activity/fitness level for self-health tracking and at a medical level providing more data to clinicians with a potential for earlier diagnostic and guidance of treatment. These devices typically work in coordination with a smartphone app for display and interaction with the clinician. Smart watches, fitness trackers, wrist bands, movement sensors, smart footwear, and wearable patches may seem like a luxury today but will define the healthcare industry of tomorrow.

Benefits
• Offering convenience
• Help care providers to obtain data on real-time activity and patient vitals
• Instrumental in prevention, monitoring and treatment of a patient’s medical conditions
• Utilising IoT and data analytics to enhance quality and expectancy of life
• Helps in monitoring and responding to life-threatening conditions such as Medical emergency, cardiac diseases and COPD
• To reduce medical errors and reduce costs
• Allows the user to be better aware of his or her health and maintain it to the best of their ability
• Increase patient engagement.

Wearable technology in healthcare is undergoing a shift from simply being fitness trackers to real-time clinical monitors. This evolving landscape is expected to result in an annual industry-wide expenditure of $20 billion on health trackers and remote patient monitoring
devices by 2023.

With seamless tracking of physical activity, sleep patterns, weight, glucose, heart rate and more, doctors can use this technology to collect a large amount of useful data about their patients. However, wearable technology also has potential to save time for patients.

Some Concerns/Challenges of Excessive Use of Technology
• High costs of wearable devices
• Data theft and data privacy remains the largest obstacle on the road to the widespread popularity of such devices
• Most users are not comfortable with an AI-based sensor keeping a record of their every moment
• Although there is an increase in the people allowing these devices to penetrate their privacy, there is still a long way to go for wearable devices to become mainstream
• They are more deemed as a luxury that is not affordable for a majority
• These devices are highly dependent on the individual’s motivation to manage their health
• Without the patient’s willingness to be an active participant in their care, these devices implementation will likely fail
• Devices deployment is highly dependent on an extensive wireless telecommunications infrastructure, which may not be available or feasible in rural areas
• The high stakes involved in the application of wearable devices in healthcare make accuracy and reliability the top priority
• There might be serious consequences, sometimes fatal, if a device is faulty, sends out false alarms, unable to transmit data correctly, or fails to correctly analyse health conditions of the wearer.

Conclusion
In today’s world, where time is precious, people, the working class especially, spend most of the day shuttling between various tasks and tend to ignore their health and fitness. Hence, many people are seeking for an alternative, such as a device that can be worn on the body, which would not only continuously monitor the user’s health in real time but also provide timely insights on various health parameters to the user as well as his or her physician Wearable devices are now used for a wide range of healthcare observation. While wearable healthcare technologies promise improvements in clinical services and the reduction in financial costs, most devices are still in the process of development. However, as technology has nowhere to go but up, the possibilities of mobile healthcare apps and wearable technologies are endless.



Dr Vinod Singh
Founder & Consultant
Hospitech Healthcare