Wearable Technology: Redefining Real-time Healthcare Monitoring
By Neha Rastogi
From eyeglasses and a fitness fad to essential clinical monitors, wearable technology have evolved to make assist data-focused diagnosis and can eradicate NCDs in future, explains Neha Rastogi
The advancement of wearable technology has ushered in transforming the healthcare sector. Today, wearable devices are rapidly turning user experience into a prominently data-oriented approach from the conventional healthcare delivery system. Statistics indicate that the current Wearable Medical Devices Market is expected to reach $32.71 billion by 2027 from $6.22 billion in 2017, at a CAGR of 18.3%.1 This can be attributed to technological advances and rising smartphone penetration. The number of smartphone-based healthcare apps compatible with wearable devices is rising rapidly, and there is an unprecedented awareness about physical fitness.
There is also a change in the traditional ‘doctor-patient’ model. Wearable technology is helping doctors access patient’s health history easily, get assistance and inputs in the operating room, and encourage patients to monitor their own health. Patients are also better-informed today. This has led to wearable switching from basic fitness trackers to real-time clinical monitors integrating cutting-edge technology.
A glimpse on the journey
The history of wearable devices can be traced back to the 13th century when eyeglasses were invented and since then, there has been no turning back. Today’s markets contain wearable devices ranging from sensors to patches that track body parameters as well as provide many more detailed health insights. Majority of early wearable devices were based on convenience features and were usually in the forms of bands and watches. However, the increased awareness, ownership of data and need for more detailed insights has put the spotlight on better integrated options such as patches, precision sensors and body monitors.
How wearable is changing the present scenario
Recently, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based company received clearance to let its AI-enabled device monitor patients admitted to the hospital. The Great Lakes Neurotech created a wireless device capable of measuring a patient’s pulse, respiration, oxygen saturation, temperature and mobility. It has now received a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a wearable that will help patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Wearable has redefined the idea of being healthy; the aim is to foster awareness proactively rather than responding to illness reactively. The scope of wearable has seen exponential growth, with personalized care and the need to quantify every parameter. The market today offers many lucrative and reliable wearable devices,2 some of which are listed below.
A device the size of a key-chain capable of wirelessly taking a complete 12 lead ECG by using sensors
Electromyography sensor embedded into clothing to track muscle activity
Electro dermal sensor to calculate stress built-in a wristband
Accelerometer in a watch to track sleep patterns and physical activity
A detailed body temperature tracking device to identify females most fertile period
Wearable and technology redefining healthcare
Since the dawn of the digital era, the world has witnessed transformation and advancement in every aspect of life. Newer treatment methodologies like telemedicine have improved the outcome of acute, chronic and preventive care. They also have great potential for patients, providers, and payers in health systems. The benefits include the following.
Healthcare access to patients living in both rural and urban areas whenever they need it.
Better integration of resources and optimizing staff distribution to reduce the financial impact
Improved patient engagement and outcomes.
Reducing unnecessary office and emergency room visits and hospital admissions
Wearable technologies working in association with AI can predict the onset of previously undetectable diseases before they are clinically diagnosed. Some industry giants like Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei and Fitbit are investing a lot of time and resources to develop new smart solutions. The introduction of AI has further enhanced the capabilities of many of these easy-to-use and portable devices. Their applications now vary from tracking all vital parameters to helping improve fitness levels and even saving human lives in emergency situations. As per a report by Forbes ‘Wearable technology has the potential to bring down hospital costs by as much as 16% in the next five years.’
Working towards making futuristic cardiac care more accessible to all, Agatsa is also set to launch another unique innovation in the market: a customized wearable heart monitoring device that will give deeper insight about heart health with medical precision. This device can fit into everyone’s lifestyle and suit the changing needs of people. The idea is to offer a more comfortable patch-like experience that helps in continuous monitoring. Agatsa is already a known brand in innovating with highly successful miniature ECG products like SanketLife 2.0 and SanketLife Pro+.
How reliable are the present wearable?
There is an ongoing debate on the reliability and accuracy of the data produced by the wearable devices. The data relayed by such devices is not only critical to the users but also important to the decision-makers. A wearable is an Internet of Things (IoT) device, which means it can share its data with other devices, users and websites. Accurate levels of checks and data scrutiny are thus required to ensure the quality of such devices and gadgets. There are many regulatory bodies tasked with this monitoring and only a few devices can qualify the parameters. The ideal approach requires not just problem spotting, but also solving them by choosing the accurate and certified wearable devices to be a part of one’s life.
The future looks quite promising and will see more sophisticated and feature-rich wearable devices. Those with the integrated AI solutions will lead the way towards the technologically charged healthcare system in the future. Things like wearable sensors, continuous glucose monitoring devices, smart bandages, smart pills, and remote patient monitoring – to name a few – will become common in the future healthcare industry.
Based on emerging technology, digital transformation will transform the present scenario. Enabled by highly interoperable data, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms along with an open and secure platform, the care delivery will be more consumer-centric, rather than the institution-based model at present. The future will support real-time data capturing and streaming at the same time to the care provider. A patient will no longer need appointments, and the issues will be resolved in real-time.
A network of connected care with several specialists interacting simultaneously on the patient data will emerge. The focus will shift completely to prevention rather than treatment. Diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases will be won over; just the way polio is now.
The idea might seem quite overwhelming to people but there were times when having the ability to peek inside the human body was also unthinkable. Over time, radiological imaging advancements helped in determining the cause, extent, or presence of disease inside the body. These developments revolutionized the healthcare processes and we will see this technology achieve a similar transformation in future. With such innovations in the market, we believe that the future is much more promising than today in terms of healthcare. There is no doubt that our future generations will enjoy a better life.
Markets and Markets, 2019
The Rise of Consumer Health Wearables: Promises and Barriers- 2016, PLOS Medicine