Imagine going on a hike on the mountain in the suburbs of the town. Huffing and puffing up the trail. The music is blaring on your earphones and your heart beating a staccato in your chest. Beyoncé is guiding you towards the summit and helping you meet the number of steps you need for the day. You continue on the journey to clear your thoughts and make the best of your Sunday. What an excellent way to recharge for the coming week! The wearable fitness technology has ultimately weaved its way into mainstream healthcare. From smartwatches to Fitbits, each has contributed to the surge in the development of wearable healthcare technology.
The digitalization of healthcare started with the increasing consumer demand to monitor health has grown by more than 80% in the latter half of the last decade. This growing demand has generated an unstoppable market that has now interested a large number of insurance companies and other industries into the mix.
What is Wearable Healthcare?
Electronic devices that can be worn by consumers like smartwatches and Fitbits are explicitly designed to collect data. The consumer’s health, such as the number of steps, heart rate, and other statistics are stored on the device to help the user understand their behavioral patterns and improve their lifestyles.
According to Accenture, the wearable healthcare technology has jumped from a mere 9% back in 2014, to a full-blown 33% by 2018. One in six consumers uses a wearable device. The spike in consumer interest is a startling reality for many mobile app developers. This is a niche that has the potential to become an indispensable asset to all consumers. Startups and businesses have found an unchartered territory in this field. Here’s some of the ways how wearables are changing the face of Healthcare and medical industry:
The cultural transition
The recent years have witnessed a swift cultural shift from real-time tracking of blood pressure, heartbeat, and temperatures to wellness. The concurrent advancements have bridged an unseen gap in software development, and the internet of things has integrated wearable technology to maintain health records.
The extensive collection of data via wearable healthcare technology has helped escalate the healthcare sector and individual awareness on the subject. The interweaving of seamless communication and collection of information has made significant contributions to the prevalence of healthcare development. The wearable industry has helped humankind evolve from episodic patient care to constant patient care. Efficiency, productivity, and innovation have all gone up the charts under the influence of wearable health tech.
Efficient care and cost savings
Recent estimates dictate that the next quarter of this century will bring global cost savings to $200 billion in the healthcare sector alone. These savings are in part due to the predictive accuracy of wearable technology.
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence and healthcare technology are developing in tandem due to the significant impact it has made on extreme disease conditions, is visible for all. The cheaper health monitoring would allow patients to find better prognosis and save money on extensive and expensive treatment options. It is expected that wearable technology has the potential to lower hospital operating costs to 16% in the next five years.
Hospital executives have the opportunity to pursue better health insurance prospects while the insurance industry itself is transitioning towards integrating wearable healthcare into a healthier clientele.
Better healthcare commodities
The cultural shift in the medical sector is significantly dependent on the development of wearable health technologies. The best example is the 2017 debut of the first pill packaged with a trackable sensor for patient use, which was approved by the FDA. The medication allowed physicians and patients to monitor consumption actively. It has opened the pathway to improve the treatment of conditions like mental disorders and type 2 diabetes. However, strict compliance with the regime is crucial to managing the procedure successfully.
The development of Zephyr’s BioPatch is another example of your illustration. The BioPatch tracks the minute-by-minute physiological state of the patient. Other wellness technologies have become increasingly popular among the masses. The thriving market adoption of these trends has created a highly competitive environment in the healthcare sector. The healthcare wearables were introduced as nifty gadgets that started with monitoring the number of calories burned have become successful conversation starters over cocktails and iced lattes.
Consumer centricism of wearable healthcare
Wearables have indeed made patients powerful. They now can share their medical records with doctors without consciously tracking vitals. These devious little devices can track sleep patterns, exercise routines, and other details that help in improving the overall quality of life for the users. Data parsing enables easier monitoring and provides the room to discuss issues via consultations instead of the traditional hierarchy. It offers virtual interactions with the doctors to save time and also much cash.
Wearables assist senior citizens in monitoring:
- Neuropathic pains
- Muscular degeneration
- And other life-threatening conditions like diabetes
Wearables are also very useful for disabled people for they allow people to manage their daily lives without assistance from others. Haptic shoes help in navigation through the use of GPS technology. The development of smart glasses enables people with cerebral palsy to research the internet and also use the camera. Other devices such as special glasses and trackers for sleep apnea are all collectively helping people with disabilities to discover new opportunities in the world.
Wearable technology is accurate, reliable, and capable of meeting clinical standards. The stats on blood pressure, glucose and oxygenation levels, heart rate, and whatnot, is remotely monitored. The healthcare provider is silently alerted and increases the efficiency of the practitioner. A doctor can conveniently keep an eye on 15 cases of heart failure on a single device. Monitoring multiple cases would keep the practitioner prepared for any claim of emergency.
Hospitals in Los Angeles, such as Cedars Sinai, have connected the health records of over 80,000 patients to the Apple watch for monitoring heart activity. This evolution of wearables has to lead the route to remote diagnosis. Devices such as a ‘smart bra’ for the detection of breast cancer and smarter contact lens for the recognition of glaucoma have helped to create convenience in diagnostics and made them far less invasive for the patient.
With the surge of remote diagnosis comes the potential of remote treatment. Quell is a wrapper that can be attached to the upper calf and triggers a CNS response to block pain signals in every part of the body. It uses electrical stimulation to stop the pain. A lot of other wearables have been developed over the years to help reduce anxiety and also help morning sickness in pregnant women. Pfizer has teamed with IBM to establish wearables to control the onslaught of Parkinson’s disease and alleviate symptoms by using data on dyskinesia, sleep, cognition, and motor function.
None of the medical regimes can work without adherence. Getting a patient to follow the treatment is, without a doubt, perennial trouble for the field of medicine. However, the future has a solution to this problem. Doctors will now receive alerts on the consumption of ‘smart pills.’ This medication reacts with the acid in the stomach and creates a signal that is transmitted to an app via a skin patch, ultimately informing the doctor.
Wearables can also provide reminders and information to live a healthier lifestyle, which eventually creates better adherence to the regime in the first place. The insurance industry has understood this cultural shift. They are now using wearables to adapt the consumers towards the Affordable Care Act and its emphasis on prevention. Some insurance providers cover costs for wearables that manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, and cerebral palsy. While others have vowed to go further.
The United Group is offering to not only cover the cost of wearables but also pay over $1000 to members who reach wellness goals. The company has estimated to reach 20 million members by the time of complete implementation of the program. Other companies like Humana have also introduced reward programs for users who used wearables to achieve fitness goals. They conducted a three-year study on the impact of wellness plans that concluded a 44% decrease in employee sick days.
Final thoughts on wearable healthcare
In the grand scheme of things, the healthcare and medical industry are experiencing a taste of the future through the surge of wearables. The continuous drive to boost innovation and practicality in the tech industry have converged in stronger consumer demands and higher investment interests.
About the Author
Mehul Rajput is a CEO and co-founder of Mindinventory, a mobile app development company that provide web and mobile app solutions from startup to enterprise level company. His role involves heading the operations related to business and delivery with strategic planning and defining road-map for the future.