The Role of Connected Wearable Devices in Healthcare

Today, wearable medical devices enabled by IoT are playing a significant role in the healthcare industry by offering the information that is essential for the patients to have control of their health outcomes.

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A woman with an AR headset looking at an MRI scan
Illustration: © IoT For All

With the technological advancements happening day by day, healthcare is gaining more access to patients’ information for an in-depth understanding of their behaviors and improving care. The wearable technology is disrupting the healthcare industry with a rapid increase in the usage of wearables, starting from Fitbit to the medical devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration (USFDA or FDA). According to a report from Markets and Markets, the wearable technology market is expected to reach $51.6 billion in the next three years.

Due to advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT), many wearable devices have moved to real-time patient monitoring from the wellness segment in recent years. We are witnessing a drop in the price of sensors, greater availability of open source libraries, embedded engineering frameworks and application programming interfaces (APIs), enabling cost-effective and fast software product development. So, what actually is a healthcare wearable device? It is defined as a device that is noninvasive and autonomous, which performs a particular medical function, be it support or monitoring, over a prolonged time period.

Need for Healthcare Wearable Devices

The greatest benefit of these healthcare wearable devices is that they offer individuals with the data they require to gain much better control over their health outcomes. These devices are high in demand as they provide greater visibility into the status of our health allowing us to make informed decisions. We can monitor different wellness, health and fitness factors for tracking progress towards our health goals.

People with health conditions that need close monitoring can utilize a wearable device for tracking major health indicators on a daily basis. With the help of the wearable devices, patients can share their data with their healthcare providers so that the physicians will have a more detailed understanding of their conditions.

Some examples of the wearable assistive and diagnostic devices include Cloud DX’s Vitaliti, iTBra by Cyrcadia Health, Google’s Smart Contact Lenses, Chrono therapeutics’s Smart Stop and many more. Now, let’s see how medical practitioners are using these healthcare wearable devices.

How Medical Practitioners are Using Devices

Proteus Digital Health’s Solution

Medication adherence has been a problem for a very long time in treating patients with severe mental health disorders as they stop taking medicines once they feel better. So, to deal with this, Proteus Digital Health has developed a monitoring system. This is how it works: a pill that the patient swallows is equipped with a sensor.

So, after the intake, a message is sent to a wearable patch from the pill’s sensor. Then, the information gets transmitted to a smart phone’s mobile application from the patch. This means patients can enable caregivers to access the mobile application and physicians access via a web-based portal.

Zephyr Anywhere’s BioPatch

BioPatch from Zephyr Anywhere is a wearable device that tracks patients’ health condition every minute by attaching it to their chest. A message will be sent to nurses’ and doctors’ smartphones via the patch if there is a dip in the patient’s health condition. Thus, this allows for round the clock monitoring of patients and allows them to leave the hospital when they become stable.

Zebra Technologies’ Patient Identity Management

Accurate identification of a patient is crucial to the delivery of healthcare. In the U.S, almost 200,000 people die every year due to medical errors, and 58 percent of these deaths result from errors related to identification. So, to deal with this problem, Heartlands Hospital in the UK has taken the help of Zebra Technologies for using wearable devices to improve patient identity management.

The proposed solution from Zebra Technologies features printed wristbands with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags which contains healthcare records and digital images and software with the capabilities of image processing. The system requires doctors to scan the wristbands of patients using PDAs during the pre-surgery checks. This will put an end to misidentifications and provides up-to-date information on the well-being of a patient. The implementation of this solution helped the hospital in bringing the errors in identity to zero.

Benefits of Wearables

Wearable devices collect a massive amount of relevant data which can help the healthcare practitioners determine correlations between medical conditions and handle them effectively. For instance, cardiovascular care is already getting benefited from examining the data collected through wearable fitness trackers.

These devices enable doctors to track the daily calorie intake and physical activity of patients. Wearable computers offer immediate access to the data of a patient stored in healthcare databases or online. This allows healthcare organizations to collaborate remotely and to streamline healthcare training. For example, the cardiac surgeons have successfully used Google AR (Augmented Reality) Glass for navigating CT scans in hands-free mode while performing coronary revascularization.

The Future

There is no stopping for the healthcare wearable market and will continue to evolve in the years to come. IoT healthcare wearable devices will enable consumers to remain accessible to the cloud for transmitting data back to appropriate persons, enable healthcare providers to gain the information they require and ensure regulatory compliance by protecting patient data. Thus, the wearable devices will allow consumers to gain much better insight into the status of health in the future.

Final Thoughts

The healthcare industry has quickly adopted these connected medical devices for lowering operational costs and improving efficiency. Thanks to the data and insights the wearable devices provide, they are putting more power in the hands of doctors and patients. When it comes to wearable technology, the sky is only the limit, and it will continue to make waves in the healthcare industry.

Written by Savaram Ravindra, a Content Lead for vmonlinetraining.