Because workout intensity is critically important to endurance athletes, many of them will likely welcome a new wearable device called the “Hex” from Humon, which measures muscle oxygen levels in real time. The device’s capabilities allow athletes to adjust exertion levels while they are in the midst of training.
It didn’t take long for Apple to shake up the wearables market. It has just introduced a new feature that will allow Apple watch users to download parts of their medical records to their iPhones.
Employers and insurers are looking to wearable technology to gauge the progress of wellness programs on their workforce.
Firms are turning to wearables not just for participation and engagement data but also to ensure that their plans are more effective in improving outcomes and reducing risks to health, according to a Springbuk Report, “Employer Guide to Wearables 2.0” cited in ProBen.
The increase in human lifespan—currently at an average of 80 years in developed countries—is often attributed to improved medical treatments and technologies, including innovations like the discovery of antibiotics and enhanced care for once-fatal occurrences like heart attacks. Yet advancements in medical technology also impact quality of life, particularly as people age. Many recent breakthroughs have improved seniors’ ability to remain healthy throughout the aging process, while simultaneously improving home care and challenges like overcrowded hospitals and remote populations.
The ways in which technology facilitates aging in place and patient care at home include wearable health devices, the concept of telehealth, and mobile apps. Wireless and wearable devices like Fitbits, smartwatches, and other technologies can provide useful data surrounding heart rate, calories, steps walked, sleep hygiene, and stress experienced. While these devices provide information to patients, they also can be configured to automatically deliver data to physicians—who can more accurately monitor patient health and continually screen for potential risk factors or new health issues. Moreover, in addition to devices that specifically monitor health, there are now wearable devices that can remind patients to take pills or perform other necessary medical tasks. Some predict that by 2018 over 81 million Americans will use some form of wearable technology.
The technological breakthroughs in communication and connectedness have also made it possible to provide healthcare services to remote places and populations. In 2016, approximately 74% of employers offered a ‘telehealth’ option as part of their medical service benefits. Through these services, a simple video chat with a clinician serves as a bridge for patient recommendations for treatment or further care. Because those who live in remote areas cannot easily access doctors’ offices—reports indicate that the physician-to-patient ratio in rural areas is 39 per 100,000, whereas in urban areas it is 53 per 100,000—telehealth technologies allow patients to easily access quality healthcare.
Finally, the ability to easily and rapidly connect customers with workers through mobile apps helps the healthcare industry by providing on-demand services to patients in need. These services include visiting patients’ homes, helping to set up smart devices, delivering medical products and equipment, and assisting with routine tasks. Not only does the need for on-demand professional services foster and create an entirely new industry, but it also dramatically improves home patient care.
Because the constant breakthroughs in technology are consistently increasing the human lifespan, the quality of our lives gains even more importance. Wearable medical devices, telehealth, and app-enabled, on-demand services can collectively help enhance the quality of healthcare in the home.
A recent study at the 2016 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons confirms the burgeoning theory that wearable health technology, an innovation that has progressively gained traction in medical and consumer arenas, can positively affect healthcare and patients’ wellness. Moreover, researchers have found that data from smartwatches have the capabilities to both detect—and even predict—the onset of disease.
Because a large segment of the population utilizes smartwatches, an enormous amount of data and metrics portray a more comprehensive overview of health, as opposed to a solitary visit to the doctor. Researchers from Stanford University conducted a study during which they gave participants smartwatches, and subsequently analyzed almost a year of the data. Measurements included skin temperature, heart rate, and data collected from sleep.
When analyzing the data, the team found that ‘out-of-the-ordinary measurements’—specifically heart rate—had strong correlations with health issues like the common cold. Additionally, more detailed data was collected from several participants, for two years. Researchers evaluated this data, and chose the four dates during which measurements were out of the ordinary: the heart rate and skin temperature were specifically elevated. During a period when the measurements were abnormal, the participant had developed Lyme disease; during the other periods, he had a fever, or the common cold.
These measurements have strong correlations with inflammation, suggesting that the data was able to pinpoint and pick up on signs of inflammation. Other participants who were ill during the period they used smartwatches demonstrated measurements of elevated heart rate and skin temperatures. Moreover, in a separate experiment, the team found that insulin resistance had a connection to body mass index and heart rate—the latter of which was measured by a smartwatch.
The simplicity behind wearing a fitness wristband, and any wearable health technology, can more easily help surgeons detect which patients are at risk for complications. Evidence-based studies have demonstrated that the integration of wireless technology strongly correlates with ‘postoperative quality-of-life data,’ and reinforces research that surgeons should consistently track their patients’ results and quality of life.
These findings reaffirm the belief that surgeons have the capability to routinely measure patient-centered results–including anxiety, postoperative pain, and the ease with which patients can perform daily tasks and activities. While surgeons do not regularly practice this type of aftercare, and follow up on patients’ recovery, this monitoring system establishes an exciting and inventive kind of versatility, portability, and ultimate healthcare awareness that should be incorporated and put into practice.
The idea that smartwatches can predict and detect disease could become a widespread phenomenon, which would ultimately become an accessible and convenient tool for diagnosis. Wearables may have the potential to eliminate doctor visits, particularly for people who have geographical or monetary difficulties.