The development of wearable technology that can monitor a patient’s health and collect valuable data is transforming the future of chronic disease care.
Smart, wearable devices sales are expected to double worldwide by 2022, making it a $27 billion market with a staggering 233 million unit sales. This growth is being fueled by fitness trackers and smartwatches.
Tech-giant Apple is among those competing for the top spot in the development of healthcare watches. After redesigning their watch with a health focus and their recent FDA approval, we can expect to see the Apple Watch Series 4 among the most popular wearables of 2019.
Omron is another company making waves on the wearable technology scene.Their HeartGuide smartwatch won Best of CES and for good reason. The watch boasts the first wireless blood pressure monitor and has the ability to take automated readings throughout the night.
But this tech’s potential goes far beyond clever wristwear. There’s also a wide array of wearable technology including implantable devices, including a pill with a digital tracking device approved by the FDA in 2017. The variety of products fill multiple different needs. No longer are wearables restricted to simply counting steps.
Wearables for chronic diseases
One area developers of wearables made notable progress is the chronic disease management.
Thanks to complex medical software, wearables are now able to collect data and send it directly to the doctor. “These devices are driven by software applications that allow them to talk to other wireless-enabled devices and transmit data over the internet using internet protocol,” says industry leader, Orthogonal. The same medical software enables wearable sensors to detect the most prevalent ailments such as heart disease.
Two years ago, wearables had a breakthrough. Thanks to special software incorporated in Fitbit watches, doctors at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles were able to obtain an accurate electrocardiogram and use it to study the effectiveness of a structured weight loss program to combat childhood obesity .
The program lasted two-months and monitored the weight-loss progress of 150 families.Everyone was required to follow the same weight loss regimen, the only difference being that half the families received Fitbit activity trackers, including the children.
Only 60 percent of the “no-Fitbit” group finished the program, compared to an 85 percent completion rate for those wearing fitness trackers, proving that wearables play a huge role when it comes to building and maintaining healthy habits.
Diabetics know all too well the painful daily routine of fingersticks to measure and monitor blood glucose levels. It’s a necessary evil; the technique is the only way to measure the blood sugar levels with the necessary level of accuracy.
While continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are widely available, patients are still required to do at least one fingerstick glucose reading every 12 hours to calibrate the CGM sensor.
But this painful practice may be on the way out in the very near future. Researchers at the University of Bath designed a device that measures the glucose in the fluid between cells across hair follicles without ever having to puncture the skin’s surface.
The only thing patients have to do is to place the device around their wrist and watch their glucose levels being measured every 10-15 minutes. No calibration required.
A group of researchers proved that data gathered by smartphones and wearable devices can help patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — and rheumatologists— better manage this condition.
It’s not the first time researchers have demonstrated the value of wearables and apps in healthcare. Home motion-sensor data in a 3D animated form transmitted from a smartphone helped doctors prescribe the proper dose of medication for patients with Parkinson’s disease
These encouraging findings — and the fact that 71 percent of patients say they would prefer if their doctors used a healthcare mobile app — prompted healthcare executives to consider investing in app development according to Digital Authority Partners.
The treatment of epilepsy also got a huge boost thanks to wearables. Take for example Embrace, an FDA-approved smartwatch, capable of identifying generalized tonic-clonic seizures and send instant SMS alerts to caregivers.
Embrace uses advanced machine learning to deliver rest and physical activity analysis to better detect when the next attack may occur. And at just 13 grams the device weighs as much as two sheets of paper, this almost undetectable addition to the patient’s life has some huge payoffs.
An exciting future
It’s not hard to see that wearables have the power to reshape the health industry as we know it. From smartwatches to fitness trackers to implantables, wearables will become the norm in healthcare in the next decade.