IoT wearables are helping to transition reactive medicine to predictive medicine, especially for those with chronic illnesses. Patients with chronic diseases are five times more likely than others to end up in the emergency room than those without chronic diseases. The hospitalization rates for patients with chronic disease are significantly higher because most patients are not able to proactively manage their condition so they must remember every single step of their care plan.
Proactively managing a patient’s chronic condition is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers alike. Doctors need real-time patient data to detect when something is abnormal and intervene early. Additionally, real-time data helps patients feel more in control of their health and prompts them to alter their behavior to lead a healthier lifestyle.
IoT wearable devices are the latest wave of innovation in the medical device industry. When regular medical devices are connected to the cloud, they can collect essential real-time data that could be life-saving. More importantly, designing an IoT medical device that is also comfortable for patients to wear is invaluable to improve health outcomes and intervene early. Below are the five primary benefits of wearable IoT devices in healthcare:
In surgery specifically, surgeons can receive patient data in real-time while maintaining sterility and increasing efficiency and comfort. There are also wearable IoT devices that can assist surgeons during surgery. For example, Pixee, a France- based medical device company, completed the first total knee replacement surgery using artificial reality (AR) navigation eyeglasses called Vuzix M400 AR Smart Glasses. Surgeons can use these glasses to navigate throughout the surgery while seeing augmented reality information displayed in their field of view.
With wearable IoT devices, you can also monitor the condition of patients pre and post-operations. Many post-op patients are at risk of complications such as sepsis, stroke, or shortness of breath. Wearables can be used to continuously monitor their condition, which lowers the risk of post-op complications and can speed up recovery.
Arguably, the most vital benefit of IoT-enabled wearable devices is the ability to provide patients and healthcare providers with all the information they need to detect abnormalities early. Having this kind of visibility into the relevant aspects of an individual’s health profile gives doctors the information they need to make informed decisions and patients the autonomy to make necessary lifestyle changes. For example, wearable respiratory monitor sensors can send alerts to a patient’s smartphone about abnormalities in their breathing pattern, heart rate, and temperature. These notifications provide early detection of lung function deterioration and enable medical professionals to provide early treatment to prevent lung failure.
With wearable digital technology, patients can be more active in their care and better understand how their behaviors can impact their health in real-time. For example, Welt created a smart IoT belt that prevents patients from falling by predicting risk factors from abnormal gait patterns. By measuring gait patterns such as speed and symmetry of walking, the belt notifies the users through an app about potential fall risks. This prompts users to change their walking patterns to avoid falling. Similarly, there are different types of smartwatches that track your steps, water intake, heartbeat, and calories lost. These are all tools to help take ownership of your health.
According to a recent P&S Intelligence report, the market for wearable technology is expected to surpass $65 billion by 2030. The growing market appeal of wearable devices will impact decisions made by both healthcare providers and payers alike. Insurers view wearables as keys to lowering medical costs while boosting patient satisfaction. With constant real-time monitoring of a patient’s healthcare status, patients require fewer healthcare visits.
Wearables also allow patients to self-diagnose where possible, which drives down healthcare costs. With the rapid development of machine learning algorithms, wearables will continue to become less intrusive to patients, while still providing deep insights to health care providers. Fewer trips to the hospital mean wearable technology will provide an eyes-on-hands-off approach to healthcare, producing better patient outcomes while lowering costs.
Three of the most common chronic conditions primary care physicians (PCPs) usually treat are diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Below are examples of IoT wearables that are being developed to better monitor chronic conditions.
Eversense created the first FDA-approved continued glucose monitoring sensor, which is implanted right under the skin to track glucose levels. When the sensor detects glucose levels are abnormal, the transmitter placed on top of the implanted sensor vibrates and sends notifications to the user’s mobile app via Bluetooth. With this technology, diabetic patients can constantly monitor their glucose levels without the hassle of pricking themselves and checking glucose levels manually.
Patients with irregular heartbeat, either a dangerously fast heartbeat (tachycardia), or an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), may utilize wearable defibrillators or implantable defibrillators. Zoll LifeVest is a wearable life vest that monitors a patient’s heartbeat and sends shock treatments to restore the heart to a normal rate.
Approximately 25 million Americans have asthma, which is about 1 in 13 Americans. There are intelligent asthma wearable devices that can predict the onset of an asthma attack before the patient even experiences symptoms.
Clearly, the future of medicine is predictive, not reactive. With IoT wearable technology providers and patients can proactively monitor conditions in real-time, which means it will never be “too late” to provide care to patients.