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Wearables have been around and evolving for over 700 years dating back to the invention of Eye glasses in 1286 AD. From there we continued to look for opportunities to miniaturize and mobilize everything from Cameras (1907), Computers (1961), Calculators (1975), digital hearing aids (1986), Physical Activity Tracker (Fitbit and cell phones 2009), to smart watches (2015). Since around 2014, we have seen a fevered pace in the advancement of wearables in the health care industry alone. The work and functionality that these wearables can do for us today is quite simply amazing and we’re just getting started. When we pair wearables with robust data analytics / AI and the consistent improvement in connectivity, the results and ability for physicians to understand and act on that data will no doubt be nothing less than transformational and Epic.
Think of what is now possible that only a short 5 years ago seemed like science fiction. Today we already have the ability to remotely; know, track, receive, ingest, analyze, and share all kinds of Patient biological data ranging from; blood oxygen levels, glucose levels, Electrical cardiac signatures, pulse, body temperature, perspiration, blood pressure, physical exercise, and more. Many of these capabilities can be accomplished with only a sticker on your skin or a modality that’s the size of a smallcookie (or even smaller). In the coming year, with the 21st Century Cures Act, the ability to agnostically sync patient generated data (Apple Health / Google Fit, etc.) directly into a patients Electronic Medical Record and then share with their primary care physician, specialist or hospital of choice will soon be realized.
“As we look to broaden the toolbox used to improve overall health for the population we serve, wearables undoubtably have a firm place in healthcare”
As we focus on Population Health as a whole, addressing access to care is a key pillar to the healthcare equation. Access to care can be a huge barrier for underserved or underrepresented patients who may not have the same resources available to them as others. The “obstacles” for this population can range from transportation, technology, availability of appointments, or any of the other social determinates of health (SDOH) that are known to exist. Wearable technologies can bridge many of these gaps. Take a patient with Congestive Heart Failure for example. Instead of having that patient come back for return visits, which may be difficult for any number of reasons, a physician can send them home with a wearable kit that that will monitor that patients real time vitals including; Heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, physical exercise, perspiration etc., and then feed them to a physician to track over hours, days and weeks. When something looks concerning or triggers an alert, the physician or a member of the care plan team can react. Another example might be converting a possible ED hospital admission (for a low acuity condition) into a Hospital at Home admission where the patient can be monitored as if they were in the hospital but from the comfort of their own home. Wearables would be paramount in this environment as well as real-time monitoring with a care plan team who can intervene at any time.
There are countless other capabilities and scenario’s where wearables can come into play as a useful tool for providers and patients. As we look to broaden the toolbox used to improve overall health for the population we serve, wearables undoubtably have a firm place in healthcare. With the adoption of centralized Electronic Medical Record’s (EMR) across our healthcare systems, data is now crucial in the care of our patients. Tracking historical and real time data could be transformative for clinicians’ insight into a patient’s true health and not just at the time of a visit or encounter. Advances in the wearable marketplace will continue to advance allowing for more use cases, easier adoption and better overall care for our patient populations. When one considers where we have been and where we are going in the world of wearables, it is easy to see how this technology will continue to be a game changer in how we deliver care across the continuum.