There’s a growing demand for wearable devices by patients and with good reason. Not only do they help patients monitor and control their own health but can reveal valuable insights to clinicians and researchers that ultimately improve patient outcomes and benefit the wider population. However, in order for these devices to be beneficial, interoperability is needed.
Today’s wearable devices are far more advanced than the first health-related wearables including the Holter monitor used for recording ECG data. While measuring heart rate is still a primary capability for today’s wearable devices, it’s just one of many data points that can be recorded. Today’s monitors not only capture heart rate, but also capture heart telemetry, body temperature, blood pressure, and the measurement of other complex vital signs that, traditionally, could only be recorded using tools found in a hospital or clinician’s office.
“Healthcare isn’t just virtual and mobile. It’s wearable and it’s nothing like it was when wearable healthcare first arrived on the scene,” explained industry expert, Tim Waters of Equinix. “Today’s devices provide personalized insights into patient health, enabling precision well-being and real-time micro-interventions that can allow doctors to get ahead of illness and catastrophic disease.” For example, it is possible to predict heart attacks with surprising accuracy, including the biological age of the patient, by examining the heart pump telemetry data and comparing against similar phenotypes.
Atrium Health is just one of many hospitals using wearable devices. The health system worked to seamlessly integrate Fitbit products with their MyAtriumHealth Tracker application, allowing for a real-time view of patient health outside of the hospital and over the course of their daily lives. Tracking measurements including height, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and exercise, providing patients and clinicians with data to understand overall health and wellness.
Yet these wearables are doing more than just understanding individual trends – they’re working to benefit the population as a whole. Devices like Fitbit are now aiding in the fight against COVID-19. In March, the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego launched a study using Fitbits to pick up on the smallest physiological changes – including sleep patterns, heart rate, and activity levels – to encourage users to get tested prior to the appearance of COVID-19 symptoms.
“Bringing such tech-based COVID-19 detection could help identify outbreaks earlier, alert individuals who may remain asymptomatic but contagious, and help local officials increase the effectiveness of their testing and tracing protocols,” explained Laura Bliss in an article for Bloomberg. “In a pandemic that has so far stubbornly resisted high-tech countermeasures, mass deployment of [wearable] health trackers could be a powerful new public health weapon.”
Today wearable devices in healthcare aren’t just limited to fitness trackers like Fitbit; clinicians have access to data from portable blood pressure monitors, biosensors, and more. However, regardless of the device, what’s needed to be able to use the data extracted from today’s wearables is interoperability.
“interoperability is what ultimately makes these devices useful in healthcare,” explained Waters. “This allows for the appropriate exchange of data whether that’s between patient and provider, patient and researcher, provider and researcher, or even provider and provider.”
The demand for wearable healthcare devices is yet to slow down and will continue to show sustained growth in the healthcare industry. Whether it’s helping patients to keep track of their health, enabling clinicians to monitor patient health, or used to fight today’s pandemic – the possibilities brought forth by wearable devices in healthcare are endless. However, what’s needed to make the data extracted from them valuable is interoperability. Only then are wearable devices able to reveal valuable insights to make a difference in both patient and overall public health.
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