Photo of woman using a smart watch

What Do Wearables Mean to Healthcare Professionals and Patients?

27 Aug 2015 by Christine Kern

According to a report from ABI Research, as many as 100 million wearable, remote patient-monitoring devices will ship in the next five years as top tech companies like Apple, Google and Samsung enter the remote patient-monitoring playing field.

And, according to a report from the International Data Corporation, the global market for wearable health devices will increase 173.3% between 2014 and 2015. Additionally, iHealth Beat explains that 72.1 million wearable devices will ship worldwide in 2015, up from 26.4 million wearables in 2014.

The wearables revolution is here. And it could lead to digital tracking, which can be converted into usable data for healthcare providers. According to Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and an investor in mobile health startups, “As we have more and more sophisticated wearables that can continuously measure things ranging from your physical activity to your stress levels to your emotional state, we can begin to cross-correlate and understand how each aspect of our lives consciously and unconsciously impacts (the others).”

The uptick in tracking health data is part of a larger push by the healthcare industry to use algorithms, databases and devices to analyze information and use it to help "rebuild, regenerate and reprogram the human body," according to The Washington Post. And that could mean big developments in the way healthcare is delivered.

Wearables revolutionize wellness.

Tracking devices are exploding onto the wearables market, including wearables that scan blood through the skin; baby bottles that measure nutritional intake; contact lenses to measure glucose levels;  earbuds that measure temperature and blood-oxygen levels; consumable pills to track medicine adherence; fitness bands to measure how high an individual jumps; and smart clothing that connects to smoke detectors.

And, for healthcare providers, new wearables technology like Google Glass for use in surgery, headsets to improve communication with patients and colleagues, and smartwatches are just a few of the latest developments.

Dr. Pierre Theodore performed the first surgery approved with Google Glass. He was able to preload CT and X-ray images. “To be able to have those X-rays directly in your field without having to leave the operating room, log onto another system elsewhere or turn away from the patient is very helpful in terms of maintaining your attention where it should be, which is on the patient 100% of the time.” Soon, we will start to see a good mixture of wearables and healthcare robotics in hospitals across the country.

Worries about wearables.

But while wearable technology offers a wealth of opportunities for healthcare, it also comes with some challenges. Providing context, communication, security and interoperability are among the chief hurdles for medical wearables.

Dr. Karandeep Sing, nephrology fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a master’s candidate in biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School says, “Wearables have engaged consumers of healthcare in new ways by providing the ability to capture and track health information, but this information frequently lives in silos outside the healthcare system and is non-actionable. Transforming wearables into two-way communication devices with a healthcare professional or population health manager on the other end will be essential in maximizing their utility for those with chronic illnesses.”

At Insight, we can assist you at every stage — from the delivery of real-time patient information to establishing security and interoperability of your connected devices. Contact us at 1.800.INSIGHT or visit us online.