By 2020, wearable technology became a thriving industry with an ever-broadening range of possible uses and devices, including smart watches, glasses, clothing items, skin patches, and even implants for health monitoring. With improved sensor technology and better apps available there has been a general paradigm shift where consumers are more open to adopt this new way of monitoring their health. These new gadgets are user-friendly and self-effacing and make sharing health related data in real-time very easy.
This helps in better collaboration between patients and physicians. It is ideal for patients who require constant monitoring to their health. It enables users to be more involved in adopting a healthier lifestyle. These technologies are ideal for those who are trying to lowering blood pressure or want to monitor their blood sugar levels or are trying to manage chronic pain.
Reasons for Paradigm Shift
The main reason for a wide-scale adoption of wearable technology has been that both doctors and patients have realized their advantages. Some of the main ones being:
- Empowering Patients
In the past patients had to be dependent on the doctors for their treatments. Technologies such as Edison by Intel enable a patient to monitor any changes in their blood sugar levels and much more constantly. Patients have access to real-time data. When the data is on their finger tips a patient knows what to do right away in case of a change in their physical health. If a patient educates themselves they would know how to manage their treatment in a much better way without relying on the doctor all the time. Technologies such as Ingestion Event Markers or IEMs which are taken along with medication keep a check on a patient’s body by emitting real time information. This sort of technology is very advantageous to patients living in remote areas.
- Help in Prognosis and Diagnosis
There are technologies such as Freescale KL02 chip available which allows data to be sent to both the patient and the physician constantly from inside a patient’s body. This chip can be swallowed and also sometimes is placed in a defected organ which requires constant monitoring. This helps a physician to make diagnosis much efficiently and sometimes can even prevent a disease by starting precautionary treatments. There are some wearable technologies such as bands and patches available too which collect data about specific organs. These can be ideal for diabetics, as if a patient’s blood-glucose levels are being constantly monitored along with the physicians can keep a track of calories intake and how and when insulin is required. This can help a patient and physician come up with the ideal treatment plan.
- Assisting In Surgeries and Various Procedures
This was something unimaginable, but technology has made it possible. Technologies such as Google Glasses make augmented reality a thing of present. A team of surgeons from University of Alabama, Birmingham used this technology along with interactive augmented reality where the surgeon wearing the glasses not only had a better view of his own hands but also a very precise one of his teammates. Using such technologies can improve patient care remarkably. If used correctly by veteran surgeons it can also be a great teaching tool for less-experienced surgeons and medical students as it can give them a bird’s eye view during different surgical procedures.
- Excellent Tool for Pain Management
Wearable technology in form of patches can be great for those who are suffering from chronic pain. It can be a great relief to patients of neurological diseases or those who have rheumatoid arthritis and are constantly dependent on muscle relaxants and pain killers. Usually physiotherapists and pain management experts use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machines, but now TENS patches have been developed. These patches are portable and have Bluetooth connectivity. If the technology becomes successful it may one day eliminate the use of pain management medicines completely and the blue tooth connectivity option allows a healthcare provider to monitor and manage pain.
- Making Fitness Fun
Devices such as pedometers, Apple watch and fitness bands have become very popular recently. These devices make personal fitness fun and seamlessly monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, calories burnt and intake, monitor your sleep patterns and much more. If you are trying to lose weight and have to take certain steps in a day or want to monitor your heart rate or anything else it is much easier to do now. These bands provide you with challenges and goals and some of them even let you have social interactions via different apps taking up the fitness game another notch.
Though it is a bit early to say to which extent these technologies will be adopted, as the industry is still a booming one. There are a few considerations which can’t be ignored.
- Since most of these technologies rely on Wi-Fi or internet for real-time data synchronization the cost of mobile bills and infrastructure is yet to be considered.
- Some physicians are not completely in favor of these technologies as they say the constant radiations they emit can be harmful. Those in favor of these technologies say that since these devices are much smaller than smartphones or other devices the radiation they emit is also nominal. However, the exact impact of the radiation is yet to be studied.
- Both patients and doctors need to be well trained to use such technologies completely. This is especially true in case of old-age patients