Can IoT and wearable health technology fill the gaps in healthcare?

Due to growing costs, unending political debate and uncertainty about the future of ACA (Obamacare), healthcare is one of the top concerns in the nation today. Another aspect is that baby boomers are reaching the age where chronic disease and illness are prevalent. Fortunately, the wearable technology is a growing industry seeking to fill in the gaps where traditional medicine is falling short. The wearable technology market grew by 29% globally in 2016, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). IDC projects that the wearable market will have reached more than 213 million units sold by 2020. In the US, with an  increasing number of patients, reduction in healthcare budgets and providers, the more ways patients can empower themselves, the better.

Government and private agencies alike are pressured by current protocols that use valuable face-to-face time for gathering data which could be much more efficiently collected via a connected device or wearable technology. For example, medical professionals can quickly access pertinent data for heart patients to determine if their existing treatment plan is working. Although vital statistics and blood work can provide valuable information, the addition of a healthcare wearable improves engagement and enhances physician actions.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a conceptual term relating to the technological connectivity of the modern world. Smartphones have already impacted virtually every aspect of human choices and interactions. From instant communication with family and friends to choosing a vacation, the uses for these small devices are incredible. IoT is one of the fast-growing areas of technology offering solutions for the health market.

What is the advantage of IoT-enabled wearable devices over the ubiquitous smartphone, you might ask. The simple answer is that wearables can provide an abundance of data that your smartphone simply cannot. Rather than you entering information into your phone if and when you remember, the wearables provide a continuous stream of information that both patients and providers can use to make better informed choices for improved health.

For instance, the data might lead to patient insights that their blood pressure always rises under certain circumstances or at particular times of the day. Healthcare professionals are able to objectively see how patients are progressing, even if some of them attempt to cover up their harmful habits. Some patients are notorious for following their treatment plan for a few days before a visit to create better test results. In such cases the use of wearable devices is an invaluable resource for treatment management to the benefit of the patient.

The abundance of wearables on the market today with features and apps to detect certain health markers gives patients and physicians the opportunity to choose fit-for-purpose smart devices. Smart shirts can detect respiration and heart rates while smart socks are designed to assist patients with their walking and running styles. Shoes, pants and belts are lesser known than smartwatches, but provide different or complementary statistics depending on which brand and style the patient chooses. One example of wearable technology that can save lives by early breast cancer detection is an iTBra, the wearable device at the intersection of IoT, Cloud and AI technologies. For more details about this promising device, read this feature in Cisco Focus Magazine.

One of the challenges that still exist in this developing technology is battery life. Researchers are working to maximize the amount of power available while at the same time reducing device weight and size. When sharing medical information with providers, data security is another area of concern, with the private and government sectors both supporting research and implementation of security technology and standards.

Communications between patients and practitioners are no longer limited to face-to-face encounters thanks to the smart glasses on the market today. The quality, accessibility and features of healthcare wearables are only going to improve  in the future. Being an empowered consumer when it comes to health is ever more important. Taking a proactive stance on health is essential to a healthy life, and these wearable, connected devices are making it easier than ever before!


About the Author

Evan Kirstel is an internationally recognized thought leader and influencer in IoT, Cloud, Data Security, HealthTech, DigitalHealth, B2B Marketing, AI, SmartHome and more. With 25+ years of sales, alliances and biz dev experience, he brings a unique perspective on opportunities in the Unified Communications and Collaboration landscape, including deep knowledge of social, mobile, voice/video/web collaboration market and cloud technology. Evan’s been named the 5th most influential B2B marketer in the US. His social media “Klout” score is 81 and rising! You can follow Evan on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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