Consumers' increasing desire to lead a healthy lifestyle and take charge of their well-being drives the growing popularity of health wearables. At the same time, continuous progress in biosensor technology, software development, and battery performance is expanding the supply of these appliances while enhancing their features and user-friendliness. Industry experts expect the global market for wearable devices in healthcare to see a double-digit annual growth rate throughout the current decade.
Today's post will explore the fascinating world of wearables, their applications, benefits, and future potential in shaping the healthcare industry.
In principle, all electronic devices intended for wearing on the body are considered wearable technology. Their use cases vary from communication to entertainment and include monitoring health conditions. Wearables in the healthcare domain often have embedded medical sensors, which collect and send health data to their users or care providers. These devices usually have a convenient design, are non-invasive, and are meant to be integrated into everyday life.
You can hardly overstate the significance of wearable tech if you think of supporting people with physical disabilities, hearing loss or vision impairment. Smart contact lenses, exoskeletons, and similar devices improve users' overall quality of life.
Health monitoring devices can also be lifesaving for patients at risk of experiencing rapidly deteriorating conditions, such as dropping blood sugar, or those needing medication reminders. It is beneficial for healthcare specialists to monitor patients' medical status, identify any changes and respond rapidly by applying appropriate treatment.
Besides increasing patient engagement and promoting proactive care, medical wearables bring benefits such as lower healthcare costs and staff workload reduction. Healthier and better-informed patients can visit physicians less often, while those leaving the hospital can use remote monitoring, which leads to reduced readmission costs.
Yet, even for perfectly healthy people, knowing how their body performs in different environments and tracking changes over time is beneficial. In a recent Deloitte survey, six in 10 US households admitted owning a smartwatch or fitness tracker, with at least 70% of respondents believing their health has improved due to these smart devices.
What are the different types of wearable health monitoring devices, and how do they help address their users' needs? There are numerous new technological developments in this area, but here we present some of the best currently used device types, including consumer appliances and healthcare industry solutions.
One of the most familiar and affordable forms of wearable technology, these compact wristbands with embedded sensors are people's everyday assistants in monitoring physical activity through such tools as a step counter, providing updates on the resulting volume of burnt calories, tracking sleeping stages, and measuring fundamental health parameters. Fitness trackers typically synchronize with smartphones, allowing users to access and manage their collected data conveniently. Fitbit and Garmin are examples of device producers popular among consumers.
Smart health watches have evolved over the years to combine their smartphone-like capability of making calls and sending messages with fitness tracker functionality, such as monitoring activity, stress levels, sleep, and heart rhythms. Nowadays, smartwatches can detect troubling illness symptoms, alert the user about abnormalities, and directly forward the data to healthcare professionals. The Apple Watch is a widely used device in this category that can even provide electrocardiogram (ECG) readings.
While monitoring heart activity is one of the functions of smartwatches and activity trackers, having specialized medical devices for cardiovascular patients in the healthcare system is essential. Besides accurately measuring electrocardiograms, modern wearable ECG monitors can detect arrhythmias and share the readings with physicians or cardiologists for analysis.
Individuals experiencing hypertension or other blood pressure deviations must regularly track this health metric - traditionally, with the help of a cuff installed on one of the arms. Yet, modern monitors take advantage of more comfortable cuffless technology, allowing the transfer of blood pressure readings directly to a mobile phone app for storage and tracking. And by looking at how the user's habits affect blood pressure, they can also give you an insight into what is happening.
Wearable health monitors have found essential applications in preserving maternal health, as well as that of newborns. Healthcare professionals can detect problems in pregnancy, childbirth, and later stages without delay using these devices. Providing a continuous recording of the fetus’ heartbeat and movements, a pregnancy monitor can help prevent stillbirths and lesser complications. Another device — a newborn monitor — can be mounted to a child's foot or ankle to record and share breathing and movement data.
Self-adhesive skin patches with biosensors are another category of wearable devices that enable continuous and convenient health data monitoring. They can detect motion, measure vital parameters such as heart and respiratory rate, treat wounds, and administer medicines. Biosensors are a versatile wearable technology that has proven effective in preventing respiratory and cardiac arrest.
This revolutionary technology integrates tiny sensors into clothing or footwear to help the wearer achieve their fitness goals or protect their body while allowing more effective patient monitoring by healthcare providers. Some examples include:
Wearable devices are becoming indispensable healthcare tools for people with vision loss or impairment. Thanks to the development of smart lenses, these devices are now being used to enhance vision and monitor eye health to detect eye disorders early. The quality of life for patients will improve with the help of sophisticated glasses, head-mounted displays, and contact lenses capable of expanding images, helping to reduce color contrast and sensitivity in light as well as delivering medicine.
Beyond the categories outlined above, a few other types of devices in the health monitoring system are worth paying attention to:
Still in its early stages of maturing, wearable medical technology is constantly improving. As new solutions emerge, consumers adopt them, and healthcare professionals become comfortable with them, it is inevitable that both the number and impact of wearables will grow in the coming years.
At the same time, industry stakeholders must address several challenges in the long run to ensure a wider acceptance and optimal use of healthcare wearables. These include consumer concerns about data protection, physician confidence in the reliability and usefulness of information, and cybersecurity and regulatory risks.
If you consider leveraging the market demand and wearables' advantages, we recommend selecting a trusted partner to develop medical mobile applications, such as remote patient monitoring (RPM) apps for collecting and transmitting biometrics from connected medical devices. Given the challenges mentioned above, your partner should have experience in building secure solutions compliant with local regulations and personal privacy rules. To help clinicians personally realize the technology's benefits within their workflow, your development partner should also be able to integrate data from wearables with your internal systems, including electronic health records (EHR).
At CleverDev Software, we have a proven track record of delivering compliant medical solutions integrating with our clients’ systems and third-party services. Whether you are interested in RPM, telehealth or EHR solutions, partner with us and you can be confident that your project will result in successful change and better health outcomes.
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