Wearable devices: an inside view

How can they improve the healthcare sector?

The rapid advances in the field of information and communication technology has permitted the development of compact mobile devices which boast vigorous computing power and durable battery life.[1] Included in the wide range of compact mobile devices is a family of wearable products, also known as wearables. The wearables market is expanding and the range of available products is becoming more sophisticated, thanks in part to micro-sensors that may be integrated into different items such as textiles, watches and glasses.[2] 

Wearables have an important role in the development of personalised health monitoring and health management, making personal healthcare an integral part of everyday life. There are activity life trackers that tell the wearer the distance they have walked or how they slept at night. Other wearables aim to diagnose disease at an early stage or monitor medical conditions such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Wearables allow chronic conditions such as chronic pain and heart disease to be managed at home rather than within hospital. Furthermore, the next generation of wearables for personal healthcare will permit the continuous monitoring of metabolites, biomarkers and drugs.[3]

The potential benefits of wearables to the healthcare system are clear. They will enable healthcare workers, patients, hospitals and others to link together to provide effective and timely healthcare.  They will permit true personalisation of medication regimes and better management of lifestyle and chronic disease.  They will provide safe monitoring and management of our health outside a formal clinical setting and they will permit the sharing of pertinent information about health which may be used to shape healthcare services.[4]

As a final thought, it is widely recognised that because we are all living longer, our elderly population will continue to grow. Hand-in-hand with this fact is the recognition that the demand for self-health monitoring and preventative medicine will also continue to increase.[5] Wearables will enable the old and the sick to live independently in their own homes for longer and will help provide efficient and cost-effective personal healthcare.  In this way, wearable technology and the use of healthcare wearables will help provide a healthier future for us all.

 

[1] Eunil Park, Ki Joon Kim, Sang Jib Kwon, (2016) "Understanding the emergence of wearable devices as next-generation tools for health-communication", Information Technology and People, Vol. 29 Issue: 4, pp.717-732, doi: 10.1108/ITP-04-2015-0096 

[2] Haghi M, Thurow K, Stoll R. Wearable Devices in Medical Internet of Things: Scientific Research and Commercially Available Devices. Healthcare Informatics Research. 2017;23(1):4-15. doi:10.4258/hir.2017.23.1.4.

[3] Sanjiv Sharma, Answer Saeed, Christopher Johnson, Nikolaj Gadegaard, Anthon Cass, 'Rapid, low cost prototyping of transdermal devices for personal healthcare monitoring'. Sensing and Bio-Sensing Research, 13 April 2017, pp.104-108

[4] V. Claes, E. Devriendt, J. Tournoy, K. Milisen, 'Attitudes and perceptions of adults of 60 years and older towards in-home monitoring of the activities of daily living with contactless sensors: an explorative study', Int. J. Nurs. Stud., 52 (2015), pp. 134–148

[5] Haghi M, Thurow K, Stoll R. Wearable Devices in Medical Internet of Things: Scientific Research and Commercially Available Devices. Healthcare Informatics Research. 2017;23(1):4-15. doi:10.4258/hir.2017.23.1.4.

Louise Mc Elheron

Qualified Doctor

I am a qualified doctor who is interested in writing about medicine and the impact that technology has in the healthcare sector. Achieved an MB, BCh, BaO and BSc in Biochemistry, a BA in Literature and an MA in English.