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Wearable Technology: Reconnecting Healthcare Industry

Reconnecting Healthcare Industry

Today, Wearables can be found in many ways, there are smart bracelets, watches, glasses, headbands that have sensors that collect raw data that feed into a database or software for analysis. This analysis results in a response that may, for example, act as an alert for the physician to contact a patient who is experiencing unanticipated symptoms, or even send a message when the individual reaches a goal related to physical activity or diet.

Wearables are a technology on the rise and are apparently here to stay. In 2017, Apple sold more Apple Watches than the entire Swiss watch industry combined. Health features are increasingly common in “wear usually including some form of step counter or heart rate monitor, as well as cell phones. The market is now moving toward powerful and accurate ways to perform complex diagnostics and treatments through these technologies. In the future, wearables may even identify serious illnesses without the need for medical examinations.

Wearable technology plays an independent role in the industry’s transformation as it is closely intertwined with an evolving model of healthcare delivery. Through this new model, care is being offered to the patient wherever he is. Many devices are currently undergoing constant updates to improve the patient experience.  The tendency is that they can interact more and more dynamically, performing tests, collecting data, promoting a simple and practical interaction.

Currently, wearable technology can be classified into five categories:

  • Health and wellness monitor – sensors that examine the physiological data of older people and individuals suffering from chronic diseases, facilitating medical interventions that need to be done from time to time. They are the most commonly used by people who play sports and the general public.
  • Safety oversight – Devices capable of detecting falls, seizures, and heart attacks in or susceptible to older people by sending alarms to caregivers or emergency personnel.
  • Home Rehabilitation – Combined with interactive gaming features and virtual reality environments, sensor technology can create enhanced feedback systems to facilitate home rehabilitation in physiotherapy in patients with heart disease and the elderly.
  • Efficacy assessment – Sensors that allow you to accurately assess the development and effectiveness of examinations or therapies, tracking physiological changes caused by chronic diseases, as well as the progress of treatments on a continuous basis.
  • Early detection – By combining body sensors and activity monitors, the technology can be used to detect symptoms and various changes in patients' health, effectively discovering disease before it fully manifests.

Current wearable market and its trends

According to an IHS Technology report, the global wearable market will grow to 210 million shipments in 2018, generating revenue of $ 30 billion - a 250% increase from 8.5 billion sales during the year. 2012. A survey by On World predicted that 515 million wearable sensors would be distributed and deployed in 2017, compared to 107 million sold five years earlier. Between 2012 and 2017, there was a 552% increase in the export of healthcare devices and wearables, constituting 80% of the sensor market at that time.

According to a recent study, the number of wearables connected worldwide will jump from 325 million (2016) to over 830 million by 2020. More than any other wearable category, wristwatches will be the most common, with more than 170 million units sold in 2020 alone. This year sales of smartwatches will account for nearly half of all wearables distributed.

Check out some of the new features and treatments that can be enhanced through this growth-prone technology in the coming years:

  • Cancer – Large companies like Nokia have shown increasing interest in developing wearables technology that can detect various cancers at an early stage, even before further medical examination by a doctor. Although research for this to occur is still developing slowly, findings in this area would greatly increase the survival rate and treatability of the disease.
  • Diabetes – A study conducted using a combination of wearable’s and machine learning concluded that it is possible to predict the risk of diabetes before clinical testing by studying variations in heart rate. The results suggest that technology could play an important role in the detection and diagnosis of the disease. The fact that machine learning takes place via the cloud is a problem, but in the future all calculations and conclusions are expected to occur on the devices themselves, providing users with “live” information.
  • Heart – Most wearables are already equipped with technology that allows operators to monitor their heart rate and are alerted by the device whenever a drastic change occurs. However, medical institutes today are using programs like Researchkit to conduct large-scale studies to develop wearables that can identify heart disease, something not found in routine exams.
  • Sleep – Wearable technology such as Pebble Time automatically record what time you go to sleep, the sleep and deep sleep phases, the times you wake up at night, and how long it takes you to fall asleep again. Other apps, such as the Android Sleep App, allow you to diagnose sleep disorders, alert you when you are sleeping too little, and even tell you if you are snoring too much.
  • Skin – Skin is the largest organ in the human body, and its high sensitivity is one of the clearest health indicators. The skin changes according to your mood, stress level, and environmental changes, and therefore require particular attention. The wearable S-Skin consists of a micro-needle and a portable device that allow you to analyze your skin and offer solutions, even suggesting specific products you can use to improve the situation. Using an LED light, it can measure the degree of humidity, hydration, redness or melanin and save the data in the app so you can keep up with changes.

Summing Up

At present, the most generic wearable technology (which function as notification centers and include health sensors) account for the largest share of the market. However, it is expected that in the future these will consist of the smallest part, with the increase in popularity of specialized wearables. With companies increasingly gaining access to machine learning, the focus will shift to building devices that can provide valuable and useful insights and information about the specific changes that can be made in each user's lifestyle.

In addition, healthcare professionals will be able to have wearables as allies in diagnosing and treating a variety of diseases, as this technology will be able to accurately determine patients' conditions and the medications needed for their recovery.

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