Wearable medical devices will soon be one of the most valuable assets for healthcare. Smart healthcare and other types of wearables are used for self-monitoring and medical record collection. Technologies that have been introduced as tools for fitness now help healthcare make better decisions. While many promising wearable devices are still in the prototype stage—or not popular on the large scale, like mobile ECG monitors and 3D spinal cord scanners, their number will increase—as well as their application. This article reviews the best health watches and other devices, the evolution of wearables, and how they help patients recover.
Briefly on the evolution of wearables
Fitbits, or fitness bracelets, were in fashion long before healthcare practitioners have introduced them in clinical settings. Wearable postoperative heart monitors and reproductive cycle trackers were equally present in doctoral practice before these technologies boomed. Medical Plastic News reported that wearables played an essential role in medical rehabilitation over the last 20 years. Professionals forecast the electrophysiology market size to reach $2.6 billion by 2028.
Since 2010, the use of wearable medicine has grown. In 2017, Movement Disorder API came into the market to assist patients with Parkinson’s disease and collect medical data. In 2018, 400,000 participants enrolled in the Apple Heart trial to research atrial fibrillation. According to the same article from Business Insider, up to 80% of the national US survey respondents reported wearing fitness technology.
Accenture strongly stresses that COVID-19 pandemics impacted wearables' application as a way to regularly track the most critical personal health indicators on the patient's side. In many regions of the globe, the top popular device with booming sales in 2020 was one measuring blood oxygen saturation. In 2019, up to 43% of patients with chronic pains used wearables to measure their pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen, and other aspects.
The report says that age is no barrier to digital adoption so that the segment of patients using wearables will grow further. Healthcare app development is in high demand as many brands like Apple and Fitbit continue expanding their trackers' features and market them to the public.
How personal health wearables help patients recover
Personalized health wearables make patients active participants in healthcare. Wearables help the continuous monitoring of human physical activities. In daily life, patients might not require the whole list of their medical parameters. Still, if they wish to be warned about critical indicators or notice a negative trend before symptoms appear, they need professional trackers. This allows them to be proactive and prevent diseases of the known risk or at least get a timely consultation with a doctor.
For certain diseases, wearables can do even emergency tracking. For example, if patients have heart concerns, they need an mHealth device like Move ECG that directly sends a cardiogram to the doctor who can take immediate action — schedule an unplanned emergency visit or contact first and provide recommendations.
Sleep tracking allows observing the patient's mental state (as the quality of sleep is usually correlated with the amount of stress the person is under) and estimation of deep and light sleep phases. Thus, patients can estimate if they rest enough.
mHealth software developers regularly add new medical apps like HeartAdvisor or DynaMed to Google and Apple stores. HeartAdvisor allows connecting all types of Omron blood pressure sensors to a patient’s smartphone and provides useful recommendations to proactively reduce the probability of heart attacks and strokes. DynaMed is useful for patients and doctors: it gathers information about new clinical tech and has a library full of clinical knowledge. Therefore, patients can track their health signs, raise awareness about different issues they might face, and save their time and money, and access care early.
Doctors use health monitor watches to collect daily data from patients with chronic conditions. They are also useful in social distancing related to COVID-19 when both patients and doctors seek to organize their interaction in a safe way.
Information from tracking devices adds to patient’s health data in electronic medical records (EHR), provides an additional channel for health screening, and informs doctors about emergencies. On the other side, they also raise awareness about chronic conditions and help patients sustain healthy life habits such as regular exercising and diet. Raised awareness leads to people being more proactive about their health issues and attuned to what their bodies need. With the use of dedicated portable devices, stressed and anxious patients might be warned immediately when their stability goes out-of-control and take time to calm down, relax, and clear their minds.
What future might bring?
The future of health devices looks very promising. While there are still some concerns about their accuracy, it improves yearly.
According to Builtin, gadgets do not end on smartwatches. KardiaMobile is an ECG sensor attached to a smartphone, while the MOTIV ring monitors daily activity, sleep, and heart rate.
Eyeglasses, earrings, gloves, and watches are only several types of future wearables. The use of sensors from the mobile industry is currently growing as smartphones were the basis for data storage and analysis. The monitoring of premature death is the priority of organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO). Wearables transmit signals to call 911 and other emergency services for both elderly patients and relapsing ones.
Beauty experts remind us that stylish wearables can be used to inform about weather conditions — for example, My Skin Track UV allows monitoring the user's exposure to pollen, humidity, and air pollution. L’Oreal works on unusual designs, with its La Roche-Posey gadget tracking skin exposure to various environmental aggressors and promoting healthy habits.
The last decade has demonstrated impressive progress in both their development and usage of health wearables. From the medical viewpoint, wearable monitoring devices are beneficial for both patients and doctors. While patients can learn about their biological data and understand more about their physical health, doctors get detailed health data and can know when exactly the patient needs their help.
Self-tracking makes patients become full participants of the treatment process and offers full access to their medical records.
In the future, wearables are likely to grow while their supply will not be limited to smartwatches and portable tracking monitors only but also rights, beauty accessories, VR and AR accessories, and numerous other innovative solutions.
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