Thanks to the ongoing development of premium digital technologies, the healthcare landscape is undergoing a shift toward remote patient monitoring. Even if you’re a little unsure about what this means, you’ve probably come across a health monitoring device at some point. The most popular form of wearable device is currently the smartwatch, offered by well-known companies such as Garmin and Fitbit. These handy devices track everything from heart rate to sleep quality, giving doctors an accurate insight into a person’s overall health and helping them to come up with personalized treatment plans.
According to researchers, wearables offer biomarkers with the potential to help scientists meet the challenges of a changing healthcare and research landscape. As COVID-19 accelerates a shift toward telehealth, these commercially available technologies could help to empower individuals and speed up diagnostic processes.
What are remote monitoring devices?
Wearable monitoring devices come in a range of types and styles. They are non-invasive and usually take the form of an everyday garment or accessory such as a watch, a pair of shoes, or a piece of jewellery. Thanks to cutting-edge digital technologies, wearables offer biometric tracking services to collect data including (but not necessarily limited to):
- Resting heart rate
- Heart rate variability
- Sleep patterns and quality
- Respiratory rate
- Daily calories burned
- Daily step
- Distanced traveled
- VO2 max
- Sun exposure
- Blood oxygen saturation
Many of these devices are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), demonstrating their genuine clinical value and reliability.
What are the top wearables brands?
The wearables market is constantly expanding, with an increasing number of brands offering specialized services for people with specific health needs or lifestyles. Top brands to look out for include:
- WHOOP: WHOOP sells itself as a kind of online coaching service that harnesses wearable technologies to help people make the right lifestyle decisions. Its primary product is a stylish fabric watch, but it also sells a range of sensor-enhanced sports garments, including leggings, sleeves, and underwear.
- Fitbit: Arguably the pioneer of wearable health solutions, Fitbit sells a range of smartwatches designed to track everything from nutrition to sleep quality.
- Oura: Oura sells stylish rings designed to generate a host of personalized health insights, including heart rate monitoring and body temperature. Oura subscribers also have access to a selection of science-backed guidance videos and meditation sessions designed to reduce stress and help people understand their bodies better.
How do wearable products and subscriptions work?
Many wearables brands are built on subscription-based models, allowing users to track their progress, set fitness goals, and send vital data to health practitioners using a single centralized app. Furthermore, several brands such as Fitbit are keen to develop communities of subscribers willing to engage with others via their apps and online forums. Outside of this informal network of fitness enthusiasts and subscribers, medical professionals may also benefit from the data collected by monitoring devices. Indeed, it was difficult and time-consuming to collect accurate biomedical data over long periods before wearables came along.
What are the primary benefits of wearables in a healthcare context?
Now, doctors can rely on wearables to deliver the up-to-the-minute data needed to carry out accurate diagnostics and recommend effective treatment options. Even if a patient feels well, wearables can detect a range of physiological anomalies, helping medical practitioners detect some chronic conditions and acute diseases at an early stage. From COVID-19 to atrial fibrillation, wearables can help to prevent medical conditions from developing into life-threatening illnesses.
What’s more, wearables cut down the number of hours patients spend traveling to medical facilities and attending consultations. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that remote solutions can significantly improve a person’s quality of life across a range of contexts.
What is the future of remote patient monitoring?
Despite their clear potential to transform the healthcare landscape, wearable technologies are not yet a standardized care option for patients. However, as the future of remote patient monitoring looks increasingly exciting, medical tech companies must adapt their products to suit the lives of patients and doctors. Here are a few ways in which the healthcare and wearables industries can adapt to the current landscape:
1. Implement pilot programs
Some remote monitoring programs have struggled to achieve the kinds of outcome improvements that researchers anticipated. By running pilot programs for particular devices or telehealth services, medical practitioners can ensure that their patients can access the best monitoring systems for their needs.
2. Use intuitive equipment
Patients and doctors must be able to adopt remote monitoring devices quickly and easily. Older patients, for example, may struggle to use certain devices more than digital natives. Similarly, the data created by remote monitoring devices should be easy to analyze and access.
3. Choose tools that don’t inconvenience busy healthcare professionals
Monitoring apps and platforms must fit seamlessly into the workflows of hardworking doctors and clinicians. If a product is too confusing or time-consuming, clinicians may choose to stop using it at an early stage.
4. Consider issues surrounding health equity
At the moment, wearables are largely geared toward audiences with reasonably high incomes. As such, care providers and digital health companies will need to work together to broaden access to remote monitoring programs.
5. Consider concerns surrounding data security
One of the most significant concerns surrounding the use of wearables relates to data security. With cyberattacks and data misuse on the rise, it is the responsibility of manufacturers to integrate security software into their wearables and ensure that they remain compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Furthermore, the manufacturer will need to release regular patches in line with the latest security threats.
Prepare for the wearables revolution!
So, there you have it – all you need to know about wearables in a nutshell. Over the next few years, you can expect hi-tech watches, rings, shoes, and more to enter the diagnostic landscape and experience widespread adoption.