The emergence of wearable devices have become rather ubiquitous in our society today. Nearly everyone you see has some type of smartwatch or fitness tracker on their wrist. The idea of “getting in my steps” has become a universal part of our days. And the reality is that these devices have the potential to be an important part of healthcare when harnessed the right way, and it seems that their future is bright.
5 Types of Wearable Devices
There are many different devices that fall within the wearables category, including the following five most popular.
- Smart Jewelry: This category includes smart rings and smartwatches. Primarily, smart jewelry tracks activity, sleep, and other vitals, with some even offering pulse oximeter and EKG monitoring. Smart jewelry devices connect to the user’s smartphone using an app and, in the case of the smartwatch, also allow the individual to interact with calls and messages directly through the phone.
- Biosensors: These sensors are placed on the body to collect and transmit data about vital signs, disease indicators, and the like. There are a wide variety of applications for biosensors with different methods for use.
- Fitness Trackers: Along with smart jewelry, this is another common type of wearable. These devices include wristbands, headbands, and straps that track the user’s vital signs and physical activity. The information is displayed through an application, often on the user’s smartphone, that allows the user to see progress and make adjustments as they see fit.
- Wearable ECG Monitors: It’s estimated that around 37% of consumers monitor their heart health using wearable devices. These mobile ECG monitors are used to diagnose common arrythmias such as atrial fibrillation (AF). These are typically used under the supervision of a provider and the data collected is transmitted directly to the patient’s care team for analysis and diagnosis.
- Wearable Blood Pressure Monitors: These monitors provide the opportunity for patients’ blood pressure to be monitored on a daily basis, rather than just during office visits. In addition to the more traditional mobile blood pressure monitors, there are now cuffless options to improve the patient experience.
Benefits of Wearable Devices in Healthcare
There are numerous benefits to be experienced from the use of wearable devices in healthcare.
- Wearable devices promote proactive care. These devices allow patients and providers to easily monitor the user’s health and quickly identify changes when they appear. Additionally, users can proactively prevent serious health issues by committing to lifestyle changes at early stages and monitoring progress through fitness tracking.
- Wearable devices boost patient engagement. Wearables provide important data that keeps users informed about their health and helps them to take control. These devices are also useful in facilitating collaboration between providers and patients by establishing a common understanding from which to address the patient’s health status.
- Wearable devices reduce healthcare costs. As wearables promote health, reduce risk, and improve early diagnosis, patients tend to incur less cost from doctor visits. Additionally, providers can utilize these devices to monitor patients after discharge, reducing the risk of costly readmission.
- Wearable devices increase the accuracy of patient data. By collecting patient health data continuously, wearable devices help to create a full picture of the patient’s condition, giving the provider valuable information to consider when making diagnoses and creating treatment plans.
- Wearable devices advance patient care and improve patient outcomes. Each of the prior benefits add up to patient care being taken to the next level, with a complete picture of the patient’s health status and engaged patients who take a controlling stake in optimizing their health. This all leads to better health outcomes than we’ve previously seen, a benefit that everyone can agree is worthwhile.
Future of Wearable Technology in Healthcare
The use of wearables in healthcare has been increasing in recent years, and with further advances, this growth is expected to continue. Here are four ways these devices may impact healthcare in the future.
- Wearables will help improve continuous biomarker monitoring. Next-generation wearable devices with advanced biomarker sensors are bringing us closer to non-invasive measuring of things like blood glucose and blood pressure. This can be utilized to keep a continuous eye on this important data to identify anomalies in patients as early as possible.
- Wearables will give a greater insight into holistic health. With many devices enabling individuals to monitor multiple vital signs, these devices allow for a complete picture of a patient’s overall health. This, then, provides better insights for providers to consider when planning patient care.
- Wearables will help us move toward proactive care over care that is reactive. As wearable technology continues to develop, it will provide patients with even more accurate real-time data, alerting them to any anomalies so they can take immediate action. Additionally, with adequate patient education, providers can encourage patients to utilize their devices to support healthy lifestyle changes that will promote a better health status.
- Wearables, paired with AI, will create more intelligent healthcare. With artificial intelligence deployed to analyze the large amounts of data gathered by these devices, there is the potential to more seamless detect the early onset of disease and alert patients and providers alike automatically when an issue is present.
Wearable devices offer a lot of potential for the healthcare industry that has yet to be tapped. As technology continues to develop and improve, the capabilities are sure to make a difference in patient care.