What are clinical wearables and how is this health technology impacting patient care?
Health technology (sometimes known as medical technology or MedTech) is a booming field that isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Clinical wearables are a huge part of this flourishing industry, and an area that is changing patients’ quality of life around the world.
The health technology market grew by nearly 200% between 2010 and 2014. In the first half of 2017, the health technology sector brought in more than $3.5 billion in ventures. There are 165,000 health-related apps on the Apple App Store and clinical wearable devices are set to soar and are expected to change the face of healthcare.
We’ll discuss clinical wearables in greater detail in the following paragraphs and explore the illnesses tackled with clinical wearables.
Clinical wearables are anything that can be worn (either on the patient himself/ herself, or attached to a belt or other piece of clothing) and that contains certain sensors, with a wireless web or Bluetooth connection which can connect to a smartphone. Most consumers would have seen examples of wearables outside the realm of the healthcare industry — famous examples being Fitbit and the Apple Watch. Wearables are now also being used in healthcare, allowing us to collect, analyze, and leverage data for clinical trials, and to improve patient care.
Clinical wearables are being used to treat a myriad of medical conditions and diseases, while improving the quality of life for thousands of patients around the world. The overall aim is to diagnose conditions earlier, reduce hospital stays, minimize the number of invasive treatment options, cut medical costs, and improve rehabilitation times.
Clinical wearables are prompting the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries to become more agile and do more for improved patient care. Health technology is allowing healthcare systems across the world to “build a society in which everyone can live in good health, safety, and security.” Such technology can also help “revolutionize the way that healthcare professionals engage with patients before and after treatment.”
There have been a lot of recent medical advances in terms of clinical wearables, showing that health technology stands to dramatically improve patient care and eradicate pharmaceutical market access issues. The following are just a few notable examples:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Diabetes — These diseases are now being treated effectively with the use of clinical wearables. Researchers at the University of Texas have created a wearable diagnostic tool that measures three diabetes-related compounds in patients’ sweat. This wearable can monitor these compounds for up to a week.
One of the creators of this innovative device states that it will allow patients to take more control over their care and learn more about their unhealthy decisions. Similarly, wearables are being used to monitor chronic diseases such as COPD by tracking glucose levels, heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, and pulse rate. The more you monitor your condition, the better you can manage it. Clinical wearables such as these stand to drastically improve quality of life and care for COPD sufferers.
Asthma attacks – Researchers developed an integrated wearable system (known as the Health and Environmental Tracker) in 2016 that monitors a patient’s environment and heart rate to predict and prevent asthma attacks. Users can take steps to prevent attacks by changing their activities or their environment via this system, which could be as simple as going inside or easing up on an exercise routine.
Alzheimer’s – Dementia is estimated to affect 47 million people worldwide. This condition is devastating for the sufferer and for the patient’s family, who generally want to offer care and support but are unable to provide the necessary high-quality medical care.
Thankfully, health technology is helping with wearables in the form of patient monitoring devices (PMDs), which allow patients to live at home for longer periods. Sensors can be placed around the house and on the patient’s body. These monitors transmit alerts when meals are missed, when patients don’t get out of bed, or if they fall, offering genuine peace of mind to everyone involved, and allowing doctors to determine the severity of the condition.