In the past few years, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the adoption of wearable devices. Their popularity doesn’t seem to cool down as people of all generations go digital and shift focus toward a health and wellness lifestyle. Thus, making wearable technology a treasure trove for both healthcare consumers and providers.
According to Deloitte Insights, the global market of wearable devices for the medical sector is booming. Compared to 275 million units in 2021, it is projected to reach nearly 440 million units in 2024. Apparently, the offerings grow and shape new opportunities for organizations that feel comfortable acquiring such tech solutions.
Today, we’ll cover the most striking examples of using wearable technology in the healthcare industry and explore its impact on the medical environment in general. So let’s dive into the subject and see why many companies consider leveraging healthcare app development to embrace the potential of these innovative gadgets.
What Is Wearable Technology in Healthcare?
Basically, the term “wearables” refers to the Internet of Things solutions that combine hardware, software, and app development. In healthcare, it’s a network of electronic devices, usually worn by a patient, and user inteface, freqeuntly mobile applications, connected to the cloud that collect, transmit, and analyze personal health data.
These gadgets have embedded smart sensors that allow for measuring and monitoring vital physical parameters like heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature. Of course, this information and more can also be gathered by other medical IoT devices like hearables or ingestibles. However, it’s the wearable health technology that remains the most popular so far.
Contrary to the first thought coming to mind, wearables encompass way more than just fitness trackers. They are usually small enough to be attached to a wrist or penny-size patch but smart enough to help manage chronic conditions and prevent serious illness.
So let’s move to the next part and discover what kind of devices and sensors are used for human health monitoring and how they help better serve the needs of patients.
Types of Medical Wearable Devices
While the technology is continuously evolving and new devices emerge on the market, we’ll take a closer look at those that are available off the shelf today. These include both consumer gadgets acquired by the public at large and medical-grade solutions used by healthcare professionals.
Wearable Fitness Trackers
Of course, we can’t fail to mention good old fitness trackers. They are one of the simplest wearable devices that allow users to keep an eye on their health by monitoring such basic parameters as a heart or pulse rate. Moreover, the wristbands help control physical activity and track the number of steps, sleep stages, and calories burnt.
These compact devices are equipped with sensors and connected to smartphones. Thanks to mobile app developers that have designed a great number of user-friendly solutions, people can easily view and manage collected data on their mobile phones. Most likely, you’re one of those who benefit from such apps daily.
Smart Health Watches
Smartwatches entered the market of electronic devices quite a long time ago. However, they started to provide real value related to health only recently. In addition to capabilities to manage calls and messages or send voice commands, smartwatches can equip users with insights into physical activity levels, stress, or even heart pattern anomalies.
The last is achieved due to new advances in optical sensors, semiconductors, and AI and data science technologies. All of them provided the ground for photoplethysmography or PPG, a measurement method that serves to monitor volumetric variations of blood circulation. For example, it can be used for remote patient monitoring to detect heart disease.
Wearable ECG Monitors
In the United States, 37% of consumers use wearable gadgets to supervise their heart health. That’s why the future of ECG monitors seems very promising. This medical device empowered by wearable technology supports cardiovascular patient care and is applied to diagnose common arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation (AF).
Given the sophisticated machine learning algorithms, modern ECG monitors not only efficiently measure electrocardiograms but also detect if any abnormalities occur. The data can then be shared with a physician for further analysis and diagnosis of symptomatic or asymptomatic AF.
Wearable Blood Pressure Monitors
Hypertension is notorious for its aptitude to cause morbidity and mortality globally. Incorporating blood pressure (BP) monitors into wearable devices provides more opportunities to improve screening for hypertension on a daily basis. That way, enhancing health care delivery and promoting wellness.
Given recent innovation in wearable technology, consumers can measure blood pressure in a cuffless way. Even if this method is still in its infancy and requires further research, monitoring BP without a cuff elevates the patient experience and equips healthcare providers with additional tools to treat heart conditions.
The last type of wearable devices used for monitoring health that we consider today is biosensors. Usually, they come in the form of self-adhesive patches that leverage sensor development and AI-based analytics to collect vital health data without restricting any movement.
Biosensors provide both patients and clinicians with a convenient way to measure variables like cardiac output, respiratory rates, weight, or even fluid volume. Thus, increasing the chances of preventing heart failure. Adoption of this non-invasive and continuous monitoring method paves the way for improved patient outcomes and better quality of care.
Pros and Cons of Wearable Technology
As you can see, various types of wearable devices have already earned widespread acceptance by consumers and medical professionals. So what are the reasons behind this growing demand? Let’s look at the advantages of wearable technology as well as go through the disadvantages it reveals in healthcare.
Advantages of Wearable Technology in Healthcare
It’s no surprise that many companies leverage the development of medical wearables as the technology provides ample opportunities and benefits for the healthcare sector. In general, the use of these compact devices allows the industry players to achieve the following goals:
1. Promote Proactive Healthcare
With wearable tech, it’s easy to monitor health regularly and notice any deviations in vital signs when they appear. Consumers can take proactive actions to prevent serious health issues at early stages. At the same time, clinicians can help their patients quickly respond to the alerts and apply treatment promptly. In this way, wearables enhance care delivery and drive patient-centricity.
2. Boost Patient Engagement
Wearables provide users with access to a pile of valuable data that helps them stay informed about their health conditions and gain a feeling of control. The technology facilitates a collaborative doctor-patient environment and involves patients in maintaining their health continually.
3. Reduce Healthcare Costs
Since wearables help promote health, minimize risks for disease, and improve early diagnosis, patients spend less on visiting doctors. On the other hand, healthcare providers can monitor patients once they leave the hospital to avoid readmission charges and loss of reimbursements from insurers. That way, the technology results in medical cost reduction.
4. Decrease Staff Workload
Wearable devices generate a lot of personal health data that can be shared with doctors and analyzed to monitor patients remotely. This approach can help facilitate communications, reduce personal visits, and optimize the workload of healthcare professionals.
Challenges of Implementing Medical Wearables
Alongside the benefits come the challenges of wearable devices in healthcare that providers see today. As this technology is relatively new, it has some room for improvement. There are four major concerns to outline here:
1. Technical Issues
Portable health gadgets conventionally require much power provided by long-lasting batteries. To accommodate consumer preferences, these batteries should support wireless charging, let alone fit into small-sized devices. Thus, companies should consider investing in better semiconductor technology.
2. Data Accuracy
Data is only useful when it’s accurate, and this is especially true for health information. That’s why it should be generated, transferred, and processed in the most efficient manner. Here, the application of AI, Big Data, and IoT technologies can come to help.
3. Security and Privacy
The owners of wearables are concerned about the security and privacy of the health data they share. As it still remains a hurdle, companies should incorporate security standards and adhere to privacy policies to protect data during its transfer and storage. Ensure that your solution follows HIPAA rules.
4. Improper Device Wearing
The accuracy of measurements and data relies heavily on the proper location of wearable sensors. They should be placed in direct contact with skin and in the right spot. However, it’s not always the case with devices secured with straps. On top of that, moisture or even tattoos can cause imprecise results.
The Future of Wearable Technology in the Healthcare Industry
Even with all the challenges present today, the number of consumer and medical-grade wearables will keep growing in the next few years. That niche is still very lucrative and offers vast opportunities to facilitate the healthcare environment.
The apps will get smarter and devices more reliable, allowing patients and clinicians to monitor a wider range of health conditions. It becomes evident that more companies will be encouraged to start the development of connected devices and software solutions to support them.
As far as we can tell, the advancement of artificial intelligence in healthcare will increasingly impact the efficiency of wearable products. It can enhance the accuracy of measurements and mitigate cybersecurity risks. Additionally, pairing IoT technologies and predictive analytics tools will help provide more insights into patient data.
If you want to keep up with the market demand and leverage the benefits medical wearables offer, don’t postpone initiating your project. Velvetech is a trusted development company with years of experience in delivering wearable technology and healthcare solutions for various needs. Contact us for a consultation to start implementing your idea.