Wearable Technology in Healthcare
Wearable Technology in Healthcare
As technology is seeping into all aspects of our lives, it is easy to find ways in which it can improve our overall daily operations. From going to the grocery store to attending our nephew’s soccer game – wearables can accompany us as trusty partners on our journey. In doing so, they have the potential to point out our flaws – whether we are getting enough exercise or whether our heart is beating a little too fast. That’s what health monitoring wearables can do.
What are wearables in healthcare?
We can define this technology as electronic devices we wear on our bodies and use to monitor our health. Like smartwatches or fitness trackers, these accessories can keep track of our daily activities, ensuring that we are exercising enough or that our health parameters are how they should be. But these devices have greater potential than that. As data collecting technology, they can also relay this information to our healthcare providers. In other words, healthcare wearable technology can become an active participant in our healthcare delivery and significantly contribute to remote patient monitoring or other aspects of telehealth.
Wearable Technology Market
COVID-19 demonstrated to many professions that it isn’t necessary to meet in the office. We can work from home; all those meetings could have been an email. With that conclusion, it also became evident that technology supporting remote consumer operations will likely erupt as an ample opportunity for expansion. That happened to wearables.
According to GlobeNewswire, the wearables market in 2021 was worth around $116 billion, with the expected trajectory of reaching $380 billion in 2028. Medical wearable devices are thus becoming a necessary product in the portfolio of many tech companies.
There are numerous reasons for this booming industry segment. People are shifting towards a healthier lifestyle. The compactness of these wearables, especially wristwear, makes it easy to monitor one’s health and assume a more active role in healthcare delivery. As a result, this technology makes fitness easy.
Wristwear comprises a large chunk of the market, making up almost 30% of the entire industry. Furthermore, healthcare wearable technology is the most lucrative segment of the wearable tech industry, segregated into the likes of defense and entertainment, among others.
Fitness and wellness wearables are expected to experience a 10% growth annually until 2028, with North America leading the global market trend at almost 40%.
Wearable Technology Examples
Wearables come in all shapes and sizes. From smartwatches, jewelry, headsets, or glasses, they are used in various industries, including wearable technology in healthcare. They are embedded with technology that tracks vitals, and we can connect them to other electronic devices and share vital information regarding the user’s health and movements. They consist of, but are not limited to:
- Smart jewelry
- Fitness trackers
- Smart clothes
- VR headsets
One of the widespread notions is that wearable devices can help patients increase their patient engagement, given that they can see the effects of their actions on their bodies in real-time. Wearable medical devices can especially help manage chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes or Parkinson’s.
Benefits of Wearable Technology
We’ve already briefly touched on the benefits of this technology. However, it is essential to understand everything it brings to the table.
Due to their nature, these devices collect large amounts of patient health data. They turn patients into active participants in their healthcare delivery and allow for the transition from reactive to preventive medicine.
A wearable medical device also benefits healthcare providers. If the patients utilize devices connected to their providers’ electronics, doctors can improve their performance by regularly and remotely monitoring patients, allowing for quicker and better-informed actions. On the other hand, these devices can improve patient compliance, effectively increasing the quality of care. Medical device wearables can remedy all of the above mentioned problems through notifications sent to patients when they do not adhere to their prescribed therapies or forget to take their medication.
Wearables in healthcare can even help patients with more severe conditions. According to ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology), using medical devices to track patients and their conditions decreases the severity of symptoms in cancer patients. In a trial of 357 patients, researchers concluded that wearables positively affected and improved the care delivery to patients with neck and head cancer compared to those who did not receive this type of care.
Challenges to Implementation of Wearable Health Monitors
Despite the numerous benefits of this technology, we still need to overcome barriers to reach widespread adoption and fully utilize its capacities. Here we will make a non-exhaustive list of potential challenges.
Due to the limited battery space associated with these devices, their life cycle is relatively short. Without proper power management, it is impossible to utilize all the benefits of wearable healthcare devices fully.
One of the things that makes this technology so attractive is its compactness. It easily fits on one’s wrist or finger or is attached to another part of the body. Yet, to increase its life, it might be necessary to grow it in size. Therefore, designers must tread carefully not to disregard one of its main perks for the sake of functionality.
Wearable healthcare technology presents yet another potential entry point for cybercriminals. With the healthcare industry being the most attacked sector for twelve consecutive years, it is essential that these devices carrying protected health information be appropriately secured.
A device is only as effective as the people wearing it. In other words, there will be no benefits if people fail to put on their wearables. That is why significant effort needs to go into educating patients and explaining all the benefits this technology can bring them.
Future of Wearable Technology in Healthcare
Based on everything above, it is evident that wearable technology is here to stay. Not only did the appearance of a global pandemic expedite the adoption of this tech, but it also turned into a growing market expected to reach hundreds of billions of worth in less than ten years. Moreover, as Vicert demonstrated, there are numerous ways of utilizing this technology and improving the lives of those who don it. Conclusively, it remains to be seen just how wearable technology in healthcare will develop and how much we stand to benefit from it in the near future.