Wearable Tech and Healthcare
Demand for wearable technology is on the rise. Experts estimate the market will reach nearly eight billion dollars by 2020. Consumers can now purchase sleek, designer trackers that measure everything from their sleeping patterns and heart rate to temperature and glucose levels. Here’s how wearable tech is impacting the healthcare industry.
Before the advent of wearable devices, consumers tracked their health statistics by hand. Individuals measured their blood pressure and manually updated records. People with diabetes carried glucose monitoring kits to check their blood sugar levels. Individuals with sleep issues visited hospitals to have their sleeping patterns analyzed.
Wearable technology provides consumers with an opportunity to receive real-time data. Wrist monitors allow people with diabetes to test their blood-glucose levels on the go. Many devices, such as Fitbit and OmronZero, track sleeping patterns. Users can sync their devices via Bluetooth with their smartphone or computer and monitor their progress over time.
Consumers can share their readings with medical professionals remotely via an app, which will potentially reduce the number of in-person visits required. Consumers might be able to save money on co-pays, and doctors can reach more patients, including the elderly who may have difficulty driving or finding a ride to the hospital.
Once patients leave the hospital, they often forget to take their medication or miss taking it at the proper times, which leads to extended recovery periods or potential relapses. Additional visits are expensive for both hospitals and consumers. Wearable technology can provide consumers with regular reminders to take their prescriptions on time to avoid any lapses in treatment.
Wearables can also incentivize treatment for patients. Virtual challenges with other consumers, virtual rewards and competitions foster user engagement and encourage patients to adhere to their treatments on time.
Wearable technology may also be helpful in hospitals as well. Individuals in physical therapy programs can use wearable devices to interact with virtual reality systems to practice their physical therapy through the use of games. This can incentivize patients to perform therapy regularly and lead to faster recovery times.
Tracking devices provide significant volumes of data that need to be analyzed for accuracy and trends, which healthcare professionals may not have time to do. As it stands, the healthcare industry is experiencing a staffing shortage. Analyzing additional data may strain already limited resources and reduce the quality of overall patient care.
Although developers are making substantial progress in developing more advanced tracking technology, the accuracy of wearable devices is still in question. Studies show the data provided by trackers can vary by as much as 25%, which may be the difference between a normal and abnormal diagnosis.
Additionally, many healthcare professionals are analyzing statistics in a narrower range, which increases the need for accurate results. While wearable technology may give consumers an idea of where they stand, doctors will likely want to perform tests in-house to verify the information they are receiving.
Some healthcare professionals worry that self-tracking may lead to self-diagnosis and treatment. Users without proper medical training may try to treat themselves for conditions based on the data provided by their tracking devices, which may not be an accurate depiction of their current condition.
No matter what, though, wearable tech is empowering for consumers, and it’s here to stay. Thanks to recent technological advancements, medical professionals can use wearable devices to supplement in-house healthcare to improve the overall consumer experience.