As healthcare goes beyond hospitals, it is now possible to have wearable, even internal, sensor-based devices to monitor vital signs and symptoms of patients. From clothes embedded with sensing devices to headsets that measure brainwaves, wearable devices can be seamlessly incorporated into the ensemble. According to IMS Research, the wearable technology market was worth $2 billion in 2011 and will reach $6 billion by 2016. The findings reveal that 14 million wearable devices were shipped in 2011, and that number is likely to reach 171 million in 2016.
Recently, a Boston-based company announced that it will be offering 'stretchable electronics' that can be worn as a tattoo, or be put on shirts or shoes. Apart from measuring one's heart rate, the product will be capable of measuring levels of brain activity, body temperature and hydration. In another example, US-based Mayo Clinic, in partnership with another company, has developed a miniature wearable device that monitors irregular heart rhythms and uses a smartphone to transmit the data to healthcare providers.
Another new device, a wearable sensor is worn using 'skin-friendly' adhesive. It collects data including the number of hours slept and breaths per minute. The sensor then wirelessly transmits a summary of this data to the user's or caregiver's smartphone.
The growing popularity of wearable technology has led to a shift in the way companies gather continuous physiological data and what they can learn from that data. Several of them are now using big data analytics to effectively collect and analyze available information. This move will play a key role in managing the deluge of data these devices generate. Clinicians will be able to extend care outside the hospital by collecting information- anytime and anywhere. This will result in early detection, prevention and better clinical solutions for managing chronic diseases.
Evidently, this seamless sharing of data between customers, providers, and payers will help reduce healthcare costs and also deliver the best possible treatment. As providers seek newer ways to track patients' health, a change in clinical workflow is also being foreseen. Physicians will have to integrate this data into their IT systems, and change their workflow to utilize this external data.
In the long run, there will be greater competition in the hospital and payer markets as patients get attracted to health organizations that embrace extended systems of care by incorporating wearable technology.