What is the future of wearable technology in healthcare?
Q : How can wearable devices improve health?
A: The last five years have seen an increase in digital wellness wearables that can collect data in real time and reveal the physical and chemical properties of the body to evaluate wellness. Wearables are small electronic devices that, when placed on your body, can help measure temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen, breathing rate, sound, GPS location, elevation, physical movement, changes in direction, and the electrical activity of the heart, muscles, brain, and skin.
This rich information can help track calorie expenditure, exercise, stress, healthy posture, poor sleep quality, cognitive decline, and even early warning signs of infection and inflammation. We can’t manage what we can’t measure. Wearables can empower us to continuously measure our health and wellbeing without the need for visiting a clinical center and immediately take an action when needed.
Wearables could also alert us about modifiable risk factors that may affect our health and wellbeing. For example, in a recent study, we used wearables to track stress and sleep quality of office workers and found that spending prolonged periods in dry, indoor air may increase your stress level during work hours, which in turn could lead to poor sleep quality and decreased physical fitness.
Q: How does wearable technology research translate to clinical care?
A: Chronic health conditions are financially and emotionally costly. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare providers are re-engineering their pathways to promote “care in place.” Digital wellness wearables can assist in smart triaging of patients for timely referral to outpatient or inpatient settings for preventive care or timely intervention before the disease becomes difficult to manage. Wearables can also empower patients to better engage in self-care and the health ecosystem. Additionally, wearables could also support personalized care delivery and facilitate delivery of care in place where the patient is most comfortable.
Q: Is wearable technology more convenient for some individuals?
A: Wearables could have a significant impact on overall health and wellbeing of populations regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity. Most importantly, wearables may assist in promoting health equity by improving access to timely care and treatment across racial, socioeconomic, and geographical lines.
Individuals from low-income communities, the chronically ill, and older Americans are among the many communities often overlooked, with tragic consequences such as higher hospitalization rates for COVID-19. Connected devices such as blood sugar monitors, blood pressure cuffs, and heart rate monitors are prime examples of beneficial wearable technology.