Wearable technology has its humble beginnings in the 1960s when Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon developed a computer small enough to fit into a shoe, which was designed to help them cheat at a game of roulette via a timing device to predict where the ball would land.
From its “humble” beginnings, the technology evolved to become a life-saving wearable technology in healthcare. Since March there has been a radical change in remote monitoring (including wearable devices) influenced by the Covid-19 epidemic. In 3 months, remote monitoring went from fringe technology to mainstream due to the need to monitor patients without a physical visit to a doctor or hospital. FDA implemented temporary regulations aiding the use of these devices, and two new payment codes were put in place for remote monitoring.
On August 3, President Donald Trump signed a new Executive Order that further expands access to telehealth services. The order in the White House fact sheet states “the availability of certain telehealth services after the current public health emergency ends.”
Companies making these devices are overwhelmed with the demand. These companies need assistance from expert electronic design teams specializing in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Wearable Device Meetup to develop their products on a budget, efficiently and push it to the market faster. Still, wearable technology in healthcare has pros and cons that challenges its full utility in the healthcare industry.
CONS OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY IN HEALTHCARE
Sensing physiological parameters
Wearable medical devices attached to the human body detects and monitor changes and capture biological/physiological data. The issue originates from obtaining imprecise and inconsistent measurements when collecting these data – largely because of a design flaw or wrong usage of the wearable. This issue is easily avoided through good product design and good product manual.
Wearable technologies conventionally consume much power, which limits its use and thus, its benefits. Thankfully, the battery limitations for wearable devices have improved over the years thanks to the innovation of engineers and electronic product designers.
Security is one of the biggest hurdles of wearables and cyberattacks on connected medical devices are increasing. Fool-proofing for medical devices is achievable by meeting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other security standards. Companies who manufacture wearable technology in healthcare need to hire in-house IoT engineers or a reliable third-party consultant to successfully implement these strict measures.
High potential cost
While the price of wearables is decreasing annually if the systems and technology of a hospital or clinic aren’t compatible with the wearable devices a patient uses, they may be forced to spend more money to implement new systems and technology infrastructures to support these wearable devices.
PROS OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY IN HEALTHCARE
Apple and Fitbit also recently teamed up with the Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab on its COVID-19 wearables study and the initial evidence the study managed to detect coronavirus signs before actual diagnosis in 11 of 14 patients through findings in their heart rate documented by the wearable. In a recent study, patients who were provided trackers increased their activity, leading to lost weight and decreased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels after 12 to 14 weeks of use. In another study, overweight individuals who managed to get 10,000 steps per day over 12 weeks resulted in lower body weight and BMI and experienced significant reductions in feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion at the end of the study period.
Remote health monitoring and early diagnosis
Adopting wearable technology in healthcare allows tracking of a patients’ health stats that can be used to establish patterns with AI assistance and machine learning. The data collected from each individual is then used to predict potential health problems before happen, allowing for cheaper and more effective preventive measures, compared to treating a disease when it is in full swing.
Wide range of usage in the future.
Current development trend and speed will allow for wearables that can allow a person to control health and monitor fitness from head to toe via smart helmets, hearing aids, eyewear, and even with smart clothing and footwear, skin patches, implantable sensors, and many more.
Startups and veteran product designers, inventors, and companies looking to get their product to the market can seek help from solutions providers like Voler to push production faster. Voler can help companies build IoT sensor-based electronic products, offer expert guidance on designing and developing next-generation wearable devices, and even assist in compliance. You can join Voler’s IoT and Wearable Device Meetup if you are interested in the enabling technologies and architectures which are enabling the Internet of Things, Wearable Devices, and other sensor-based products and solutions.