Smartwatches are just the beginning. Wearable technologies are transforming the way that we view healthcare. These devices put the correct information in the hands of individual patients to become their own healthcare advocates. This technology is helping doctors and patients alike.
What Is Wearable Technology in Healthcare?
Wearable healthcare technology includes devices ranging from smartwatches that monitor vitals and physical activity to continuous glucose monitors. These devices provide patients and doctors with real-time data on their health conditions.
And as telehealth services have expanded, driven by mitigation efforts of a global pandemic, wearables have moved to the forefront of diagnostic equipment. These devices allow physicians to monitor and measure patient performance from a distance — providing a complete picture of patient health.
Why Is Wearable Technology Important?
While wearable technology isn’t new — the first hearing aid was invented in 1898, it is evolving into something much more helpful. Fitness bands or smartwatches are the most mainstream iteration of wearable technology. These devices count steps and track workouts while simultaneously monitoring your heart rate. They track sleep patterns, menstrual cycles, and your mood.
And in the world of medical devices, technology development is driving change to create better medical alert devices that can save lives. The future that we are coming into includes devices that can use GPS tracking to protect the senior population from wandering off and getting lost. It includes earrings that can monitor vitals and patches that can monitor ECG activity.
What Are Some Examples of Wearable Technology in Healthcare?
The most common wearables in the healthcare industry include hearing aids and glucose monitors. Both treat common ailments and have been widely used for a long time. But new technology and specifically smaller sensors are allowing the development of a new generation of healthcare wearables. Some of the more recent wearables on the market (or in conception) include:
- Wearable defibrillators for people with unusual heart rhythms.
- Unique collars that prevent concussions.
- Wearable monitors for asthma patients that detect early onset of an attack.
- Necklaces that can accurately monitor the ingestion of medication to track medical adherence.
- Wearable biosensors that can detect all kinds of physiological changes.
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How Does Wearable Technology Affect Healthcare?
Wearable technology is enabling a shift from point-of-care to point-of-need. Traditionally, the sick and injured have been funneled through clinical settings and compared to checklists to determine what ailments they are suffering from and what treatments they might benefit from. However, this methodology often misses key symptoms with sometimes critical results.
Take, for example, a pregnant patient in the third trimester who is simultaneously suffering from sporadic gallbladder attacks. While in a clinical setting and not under the duress of an attack, every complaint is chalked up to pregnancy, and the patient is sent home. Even if the symptoms return, when the patient arrives at the clinic and is evaluated, the attack is over, and the patient is sent home with the diagnosis that she is simply pregnant.
However, a wearable device that can track physiology from a distance would pick up critical changes during the gallbladder attacks, like a significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate as the pregnant woman compensates for the gallbladder pain. The timing of these measurements would point to a clear but sporadic physiological change and may encourage her doctor to look for a cause other than pregnancy.
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What Is the Potential Of Wearable Technology in Healthcare?
The future of wearable technology will allow physicians to monitor chronic conditions remotely. This may lead to less time in the hospital for some patients and less frequent trips to the clinic for others. However, the medical technology field will have to overcome supply chain disruptions, security risks, and global regulations to move forward.
How Is Wearable Healthcare Technology Becoming More Accessible?
As we move towards the future, more healthcare technology companies create devices and apps designed with diverse users in mind. Simplified user interfaces help the elderly and technology-challenged populations learn to use new tools. Built-in language translators ease the impact of language barriers between patients and doctors. And mass production makes the technology more affordable for widespread use.
Top Trends in Wearable App Technology
The world of technology is at the mercy of consumer trends, and healthcare tech is no exception. The top trends in wearable app technology in 2021 include everything from smartwatches and smart jewelry to prosthetics and assault protection.
These wearable devices first hit the market in 2013, and they were quickly adopted into the mainstream as wearers challenged each other to how many steps they could get in. This was a big win for a society facing a ballooning obesity problem. And app developers jumped on the bandwagon, with music streaming giant Spotify adapting a fully functional version of their app for the smartwatch. Other apps like Seven Minute Workouts and Citymapper followed suit.
The next generation of prosthetic limbs and hearing aids will do much more to improve the lives of people living with disabilities. Biosensor technology will be able to make arm and leg prosthetics that function naturally and even provide neural feedback to the brain like a real limb.
Devices like contact lenses and glasses are poised to get a “smart” gadget upgrade that may put a virtual assistant or other multimedia right in front of the eye. Earrings are under development that contain biosensors for monitoring vitals. And there is even a necklace that has a 90% accuracy rate to identify when an individual has taken their medication. This new era of smart clothes will change the game for medical alert devices.
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Wearable Technology in Healthcare Is Here To Stay
The usefulness of wearable technology has a lot to offer the healthcare industry. While there will certainly be new regulations to address ethical concerns that come with continuous monitoring, patients with chronic conditions will enjoy the added peace of mind that these devices provide. The bottom line is that wearable technology isn’t going anywhere. We may see growth in unexpected areas or minor setbacks with regulations, but the utility of this technology will prevail.
Alternova provides technology-based services to the healthcare industry. From app development to system integration, we can take your vision for the future of healthcare tech to the next level. Contact us today to get started.