Looking into a Future with Health Wearables

Technology has once again found another way to reshape healthcare in a way that advocates patient empowerment, and this is through health wearable devices. Through wearables, patients are more driven than ever to take charge of their health. From easily obtaining and recording vital signs to analyzing data, wearable technology is continuously being developed with the aim to improve patient outcome with real-time adjustments in healthcare plans.

With the increasing costs of healthcare, patients are looking for other possible options to cut down on unnecessary costs, and one highly viable route is through clinical wearables. In fact, 130 million wearable devices are expected to be purchased by consumers come 2018. Its integration into the healthcare industry is impending, yet there are still a lot to consider about the wearable trend than we can imagine.

Better health monitoring and disease management

There’s no doubt how promising the effects of mobile healthcare devices are. In fact, National Institute of Health experts believe that this technology “can make a significant difference to public health and health care delivery”.

With the help of wearables, doctors can now have access to their patients’ data over extended time periods without having to admit them to the facility. For instance, there are already mobile tools for diabetes patients intended to better manage their disease. This improvement in disease control can help lower hospitalization rates for these patients, as physicians are more comfortable in allowing their patients to recover at their homes. Not only does this benefit the patient by cutting their healthcare spending, this also reserves more hospital beds for other higher risk patients requiring close attention.

Data security and privacy issue

Although wearable devices significantly impact the course of healthcare, there’s no denying that they are increasingly pervasive, especially since they are used to monitor clinical data and activity levels. Since these devices are portable, there is a constant need for this technology to identify fake and real activity. Based on a 2016 study, a team of researchers have successfully identified dubious behavior data obtained by wearable devices with an accuracy of only 84%. While activity trackers pose huge advantages in healthcare, there is still an imminent need to develop smarter systems against such deceptive behavior.

These vulnerabilities may even threaten user privacy. According to a paper recently published by a team from the University of Edinburgh, many wearable devices have communication procedures with weak security spots, allowing personal data to be shared without authorization. This could result to fake health records to be created, which comes as a problem between health insurance companies and consumers.

Patient behavior towards healthcare

Apparently, there is still a gap between recording information and behavioral change with the use of healthcare wearables. Merely keeping track of a bunch of numbers and statistics does not guarantee motivation and a changing behavior on the patient’s end, and this comes as a major obstacle that wearables need to overcome if they are to make a significant impact on the healthcare industry. The data recorded by these mobile devices are not the motivators themselves, but it is the way such numbers are used in the development of effective healthcare plans.

Scalability of healthcare wearables

While clinical wearables offer huge potential in changing the state of healthcare today, there are still important factors to consider before realizing this. Since people are often doubtful of any new technology that could disrupt their routine, purveyors of wearable technology need to promote a deeper understanding and education to potential consumers. There is also a need to form collaborative relationships between providers, vendors, payers, and patients.

When such aspects are not taken into consideration, the healthcare industry may still be unready for health wearables. Anyway, healthcare can still be accessed at home through the use of portable devices such as SpO2 pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors. For instance, patients and caregivers can still easily monitor blood pressure levels by simply wrapping the NIBP cuff to the arm and manually recording the data. With the unwavering convenience that these portable home health devices bring, patients may still be far from accepting wearable technology and its long-term use.

A future with health wearables is no longer too distant. There may still be loopholes surrounding this new technology, but with its good intention and promising benefits, it won’t be long before we see it streamlining the healthcare industry in many aspects worldwide.