Technology is a part of every facet of our lives today. This includes our health care. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals have used technology for many years to help with everything from monitoring conditions in the hospital and out of it to making surgeries less invasive.
In recent years however, technology has made it much easier for the average person to monitor their own health using wearable devices or simply “wearables.” This article looks at what a wearable is and the ways they are changing how people manage their own diseases or conditions.
What is a Wearable?
The most familiar wearable devices that people see and wear is a smart watch or fitness band. Some of the most popular manufacturers of wearable devices include Fitbit and the Apple Watch. These devices started out by tracking physical activity and sleep.
However, wearable devices have progressed beyond basic fitness and health. People are now able to use smart watches and other types of wearable devices to track and monitor conditions at home and on the go.
How Wearables Track Health
The Apple Watch’s ability to track heart conditions as well as heart rate is a significant selling feature, not only to regular people but also to doctors. The company also has a health app targeted towards medical professionals that includes an ECG feature which monitors heart conditions like having an irregular, high, or low heart rate in certain conditions. If any of these occur, the wearer receives a notification and can contact or seek help from medical professionals.
AliveCor manufactures Kardia Mobile, a device that allows users to take an EKG anywhere using just a person’s fingers. It’s not technically wearable, but it tucks into a phone case pocket and the readings can be captured on a phone and sent to a medical professional.
TempTraq is a device designed for small children to wear under the arm to track temperature. It uses Bluetooth to send that information to parents or medical professionals in the hospital using their smartphone. This way, the child doesn’t have to be disturbed multiple times to take their temperature when they’re sick.
PIP measures and helps reduce stress. It uses the pores on your finger tips to help detect your stress levels. Once it detects it, it uses companion apps to play sounds or show photo that are designed to help reduce stress. The lower the stress level becomes, the faster the audio or the picture changes.
Conditions like diabetes are also getting help from wearables thanks to sensors. Devices including Dexcom and the FreeStyle Libre allow for continuous glucose monitoring. Traditionally Diabetics have had to prick their fingers and put a blood sample on a strip to insert into a machine. These devices, by contrast, use a sensor attached to someone to read a blood sugar level using a smartphone app without finger sticks.
The Impact of Wearables on Health Care
Wearable devices are only becoming more common. So how do they impact health care overall besides simply monitoring conditions? Wearables help promote better health overall by encouraging people to engage more in tracking their health and staying healthy. It also helps the health care system as a whole get better.
Today, the majority of people have access to their own electronic health record (EHR). Medical professionals use them to collect data and notes about your health. But an EHR isn’t the most effective tool to monitor a condition, at least on its own. Wearable devices integrate with these EHR programs to help solve this problem.
How is the data used?
More accurate information regarding health from a wearable also helps insurance companies make decisions. By accessing information from a wearable, insurance companies can make more informed decisions about how they can keep members healthy. United Healthcare offers wearable devices to its members and then pays money to them for reaching health goals. Humana also has its own rewards program to help inspire its members to stay healthy.
These devices help medical professionals as well. They track and keep information outside of an office appointment. As medical professionals see more patients, it’s difficult for them to keep track of an individual person’s condition. With a wearable, all the information they need is on the device. So it’s easier to look at the data from the device at a normal office visit or even in an emergency situation.
Wearables are here to stay for the foreseeable future
While technology has been a part of health care in hospitals, the advent of wearable technology has helped empower people to keep track of their health and guide those with chronic medical conditions through the process of monitoring it at home.