Wearables in the Healthcare Industry

 

Wearables: Coming of Age

One of the most impressive application of wearable technology in the healthcare field comes from the collaboration between Phillips Intellevue Solutions and Accenture. Using Google Glass, the proof of concept technology provides physicians with a heads-up display that shows patient status, information on the patient’s condition and even their vital signs before, during and after surgery. However, this only scratches the surface of what wearable technology can do for the healthcare industry. When caregivers were asked how they see the future of healthcare as a result, their answers below provided a great deal of insight about how wearable devices can change how patients are treated in the future:

  • 42% stated that they were comfortable prescribing medication based on the results of at-home tests
  • 50% believe that e-visits could make up a tenth of all their office visits because of data shared through wearable technology
  • 66% would prescribe an app to help manage chronic diseases
  • 79% agree that wearable technology could help physicians coordinate better care

 

Five Examples in Practice

1. Embrace – Embrace was originally designed to alert people when a loved one was having an epileptic seizure. Data from Embrace can provide information for individuals with autism, anxiety disorders, PTSD, unipolar and bipolar depression, Multiple Sclerosis, sleep disorders, hot flashes, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Users can also track activity, sleep patterns, and stress levels. Worn like a watch, this device connects with a smartphone to collect data. Embrace also bills its device as a stylish-looking watch that tells time using LED lights on the watch face.

2. HealthPatch MD – Using a reusable bio-sensor with ECG electrodes and a 3 axis accelerometer the HealthPatch MD helps caregivers keep track of patients by measuring:

  • Single-Lead ECG
  • Heart Rate
  • Heart Rate Variability
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Skin Temperature
  • Body Posture including Fall Detection/Severity
  • Steps

Having received FDA clearance, this wearable device is available in US hospitals as well as hospitals in Canada and Europe.

3. Helius – Swallowing the Helius pill will help treat patients by collecting a wealth of information about the person who ingests it. Healthcare providers can keep tabs on patients to see if they are taking their prescribed medication at the right time and also monitor a person’s response to different therapies. Should the device discover something wrong, the physician can be alerted so he or she may check up on their patient. While still in testing, this “wearable” device could be an interesting one to watch.

4. Freestyle Libre System – Abbott Diabetes Care announced the development of a patch that serves as a glucose monitoring system for the wearer. Doing away with the finger prick, this system is comprised of a patch that a person wears for 14 days. A companion app stores the data for the person and their caregivers to review. The app also provides information about diet and how it can help control diabetes.

5. iTBra – Cyrcadia Health developed a smart bra with sensors embedded throughout to help keep track of conditions and rhythms in the breast tissue to help alert wearers to the possibility of cancer. Initial testing included a group of 500 wearers and produced an 87% success rate. In addition to monitoring, the companion app for this product provides users with coaching and information to help optimize breast health and care.

The Takeaway: Wearables are Here to Stay

As people, and caregivers, become more comfortable with collecting data through wearable technology, more products will find their way to the market and more physicians will come to rely on them to treat their patients. Working in conjunction with many fitness and lifestyle technologies, wearable healthcare devices may prove to be just as important to our well-being as was the discovery of antibiotics and immunizations.