Better Healthcare With the Advent of Wearable Technology

By: Guest Blogger Jack Cosentino, Health Practice Director  – MentorMate

The fitness craze aside, wearable tech has opened up a whole new diagnostic world for healthcare providers and researchers. These amazing products are part of a new category of medical devices and are capable of monitoring several types of bodily systems and functions in real time. Better yet, this data can be transmitted via wireless networks and mobile phone technology to cloud storage facilities for diagnostic purposes.

The connectivity provided by wearable technology is able to deliver information in both
directions.  While it can certainly help doctors and healthcare providers receive information about their patients, it can also be used to help patients receive critical information to allow them to better use their healthcare services and products. Non-compliance by patients with medication regimens can often lead to money being wasted, not to mention the effect that has on the management or rehabilitation of patients. However, with the new technology in wearable devices, physicians today are better prepared to combat such issues. These are just a few of the ways that a marriage of technology with healthcare is beneficial for both patients and doctors. Let’s explore further, shall we?

Wearable devices are more than just fitness trackers.

In the recent past, when someone mentioned that they were sporting a wearable device, it was assumed that they were referring to a fitness tracker of some kind. While it is true that the first generation of wearable devices were designed with fitness in mind, they are increasingly becoming more and more sophisticated. In fact, this technology is now revolutionizing the way healthcare providers monitor their patients’ health, especially when it comes to treating people who are suffering from serious conditions.

These newer devices are able to measure respiratory and heart rates along with the amount and intensity of the exercise you do. In addition, wearables can detect specific conditions, if you have excess fluid in your body, for example. Being able to measure such complex changes in our physiology is solidifying the position of wearable devices as an integral part of today’s healthcare.

Wearable technology is pushing healthcare out of the hospitals.

New technologies are also emerging to transmit the data collected through mobile phones and wearable devices to health professionals directly, allowing them to review and analyze it. This helps them to be more prepared in case of an emergency. Wearable technology is especially beneficial for those who have a risk of heart failure or heart complications. Patients can be monitored right from their homes without having to be admitted to a hospital. Not only is this convenient for patients, but it also helps to cut down on long wait times and overcrowding in hospitals, ultimately reducing stress on the healthcare system itself.

Since wearable technology has the ability to monitor patients around the clock, it can often predict and recognize when something is going on before irreparable damage is done. It makes it possible for patients and healthcare providers to act quickly and take necessary steps to prevent health issues from escalating. Waiting for a call from a primary care physician (PCP), or for an ambulance to arrive, can sometimes be the difference in receiving adequate care exactly when it is needed. Wearable devices with the ability to facilitate healthcare monitoring give everyone a major advantage in these scenarios.

These devices are not just for those suffering from congestive heart failure; these devices can also help monitor and treat people suffering from other ailments, many of which are often associated with old age—illnesses such as diabetes, urinary tract infections, serious breathing problems and so on.

Data is critical to get the most out of implementing wearable technology.

While it is true that wearable technology is changing how healthcare is monitored and
delivered, it is necessary for us to consider a few additional things when working towards successful implementation of this new shift in healthcare. With the advantage of the analytics they will provide, healthcare stakeholders will be able to generate actionable insights that will yield better outcomes for patients. They will be able to provide customized healthcare plans and focused care to high-risk populations. Rethinking the workflow and workforce needed to process these increasing amounts of data will be essential if we hope to make the most of wearable technology.

Finally, we need to consider digital interventions to augment or replace the traditional office visit. Of course, the first question to consider is if digital intervention is warranted at all. It certainly depends on the severity of the medical condition of the patient. While wearable tech is definitely changing the face of healthcare, their application should be contextualized on a case-by-case basis.  After all, even the best technology can backfire if used at the wrong time or place. For many of us, digital interventions will mean healthier and more active lifestyles well into the future. In the long run, these advancements in digital healthcare will improve the quality of treatment, lead to increased longevity and help reduce costs.

Do you currently have a wearable device that transmits data from you to something (or someone) else? What is the appeal of this device? Are you a practitioner with patients using this technology? Have you found the data it collects beneficial? We would love to hear your thoughts about the exciting new possibilities for wearable devices in healthcare. 

About the Author:  Jack Cosentino is the director of MentorMate’s Healthcare Practice, focused on life sciences and digital health. He facilitates MentorMate’s partnerships with medical companies to develop apps, find access to additional funding and implement digital health accelerators. Cosentino is also the advisory board chair of MobCon Digital Health, a healthcare technology conference being held on April 8, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, MN.