Wearable technology is poised to change the way healthcare companies enhance lives of the patients, especially those with chronic conditions. The remote monitoring of patients and real-time access to health indicators will enable never-before speed of interventions and comprehensive management
According to Markets and Markets, the global market for medical wearable devices is projected to reach $12.1 billion by 2021 , with the US representing the largest market worldwide. Wearable technologies enhance the healthcare system by aiding in the remote monitoring of patients and providing real-time access to health indicators, enabling quicker diagnosis and treatment. Especially for chronic conditions, it is poised to lower the cost of healthcare, reduce durations of hospital stays, and best of all, fewer visits to the doctor. Moreover, these technologies are unobtrusive, with features, such as wireless data transmission, real-time feedback and alerting mechanisms. The benefits actually extend far beyond the healthcare system, as patients are empowered to take control and monitor their own health.
To be honest though, wearables have not yet come out of the realm of novelty - most have been restricted to the individual wellness and fitness market, and simple adoption of these devices into every day healthcare still evolving. To realize its promise, wearables will need to transition to a clinical setting that requires the passing of stringent regulatory processes and approvals, especially concerned with the type and quality of data they generate. To unlock true value for the patient, this data must be relevant and usable in a clinical setting.
It will be interesting to look athow wearables will enable Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) - a category that is expected to grow the fastest with the rise in the number of people with chronic medical conditions and increase in geriatric population. Mobile medical devices can perform routine tests to make data available to healthcare professionals in real time. Implementation of RPM can improve the management of chronic diseases by measuring critical risk indicators, such as glucose, blood pressure, etc.
Diabetes isone of the biggest worldwide healthcare crises, affecting over 400mn people with 23mn of them in the US alone. Most diabetes patients do not recognize symptoms of their condition worsening and by the time they do, it is too late to make changes to their daily habits or lifestyle. This often results in serious complications or emergency hospitalization, both of which are avoidable if indicators like blood glucose levels could be monitored. RPM enables these early warning signs by electronically communicating indications to a healthcare professional and allows for pre-emptive action to be taken. This reduces the chances that the patient would need a follow up visit or hospital admission. Current technology uses a small needle-like prong—the equivalent of two human hairs—embedded just beneath the skin and checks blood sugar fluids every five minutes, 24 x 7. But the Holy Grailthat researchers are chasing is a sensor that monitors glucose without pricking the skin.
‘The Silent Killer’ affects over 75mn people in the US alone, and about half of these people do not have their blood pressure under control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke: all of which will require significant healthcare spends. The latest devices that remotely monitor blood pressure do it with a band or a bracelet to do the work of the cuff that does the job in a doctor’s clinic. A small squeeze transmits the systolic and diastolic readouts to a smart phone or a remote monitoring device. Detection of blood pressure fluctuations enables timely diagnosis. When combined with a smartphone app that a physican has access to, the wearable blood pressure cuff on high-risk patients can detect an abnormal reading and ensure that the they receive an intervention before it is too late. The platforms also facilitate two-way communication between the patient and their provider and handle insurance billing for its customers.
About 70 million Americans don’t get a good night’s sleep. Sleep disorders are fast becoming the focus of wellness efforts around the world as the medical fraternity addresses sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. While the complexity of a PolySomnoGram (PSG) is not replicable in a wearable setting, sleep scientists have come up with actigraphy, a far more portable method. It can be used to ascertain if the movements you make during sleep are normal or abnormal, and whether you’re going into deep and restful sleep as a part of your nightly rest.
Gartner predicts that by 2023, 60% of healthcare consumers in the U.S. will have access to and control of their health data using a technology of their own liking, and wearables will lead the charge. Healthcare companies are investing in a digital future, with a view to transforming the patient wellness journey. Wearable devices offer healthcare companies the unique position of being able to disruptively impact people’s lives. I believe it is an opportunity for the taking, what do you think?