Wearable technology is impacting the healthcare industry more than most sectors of the economy. Healthcare practitioners have benefited from every major technological advancement throughout history, and the impact of wearable technology is helping doctors, nurses, and first responders stay connected and deliver better services.
Patients, however, are reaping even greater benefits from wearable technology than healthcare practitioners. Overall, wearable technologies are decentralizing healthcare away from physician’s offices and hospitals and helping consumers take charge of their own health.
Healthcare software development must stay abreast of the latest trends in wearable tech to provide the solutions that modern patients and providers require. In this guide, we’ll explore the latest sectors in wearable healthcare technology that will require customized software as healthcare continues to become more digitized and decentralized.
Providing Care at the Point of Need
A recent study in the journal Student Health Technology Information points out a ramping trend toward providing healthcare at the “point of need.” This phrase refers to the physical location and time within which patients find themselves in need of medical care.
While most healthcare takes place in clinical settings, the vast majority of patients experience health crises while at home or at work. Any time that medical care is not provided directly at the point of need, however, logistical inefficiencies occur that can be costly or even life-threatening.
This study acknowledges the critical role that wearable computers, such as smartwatches, play in providing healthcare providers with real-time information on their patients from a distance. The authors also point out, however, how smart fabrics are also playing a critical role in the advancement of wearable technology in healthcare. As time goes by, it’s likely that smart fabrics will play an even greater role in enabling point-of-need care than smartwatches.
Until recently, smart fabrics, clinically known as smart fabric and interactive textile (SFIT) solutions, have played a relatively minor role in the administration of remote healthcare via wearable technology. As SFIT solutions advance in complexity, however, software developers will need to pivot to include these technologies to stay compliant with the needs of practitioners and patients.
By allowing patients to take charge of their own health care needs via increased access to information and helping healthcare practitioners monitor their patients remotely, wearable technologies like smartwatches and SFIT solutions are making care at the point of need more practical than ever before. What’s more, wearable technologies are leading to a point in the near future in which AI, holograms, and other developing technologies will allow the complete virtual presence of real practitioners and “doctor bots” whenever patients find themselves at the point of need for medical care.
Helps Patients Stay Aware of Their Health Needs
Helping patients take care of their own health and well-being is ultimately a better approach than funneling them into hospitals and other clinical environments. The vast majority of medical practitioners are overworked, and they see anywhere from five to 20 patients per day. Given the patient load an average medical practitioner’s day entails, it’s impossible to provide each patient with the level of attention that a person can pay to their own body.
The more enabled patients are to take their health in their own hands, the easier it will become to avoid major medical emergencies and streamline routine medical care. Already, inexpensive wearable devices can provide information on your heart rate, the number of steps you take in a day, and how long you sleep. The next generation of smartwatches will even be able to provide detailed information on how well you sleep at night and detect cardiac irregularities that don’t express themselves in altered heart rates.
Wearables may also be reducing hypochondria-related medical visits since patients feel safer when they know more about their health. Hypochondria induces a significant amount of stress within the healthcare system, so the more that patients know about their physical and mental conditions, the less likely they will be to overcrowd hospitals and the offices of family physicians.
When serious medical events do occur, wearable technologies allow patients to confirm the severity of their medical emergencies and take appropriate action. Many wearable technologies even take the initiative themselves by automatically contacting first responders when they detect medical emergencies.
Monitors Vulnerable Patients from a Distance
When severe medical conditions are present, many healthcare providers feel uncomfortable allowing their patients to leave clinical environments. Returning home, however, can provide a degree of psychological well-being that frequently proves critical in recovering from conditions.
Furthermore, hospitals can be unsafe environments for patients with autoimmune disorders or other conditions that might be exacerbated by exposure to pathogens. Allowing patients to return home as soon as possible has always been the goal of ethical medical practitioners, and the latest generation of wearable technologies are making this important transition easier.
New wearable technologies, for instance, allow medical practitioners to monitor patients from a distance. Nurses and doctors can now stay abreast of the vital readings of their patients even when they are dozens or even hundreds of miles away. These same wearable technologies allow medical practitioners to stay in constant contact with their patients even when smartphones and other communication devices aren’t viable.
Thanks to the power of Bluetooth and other wireless connectivity technologies, wearables can also give medical practitioners the power to directly control medical devices that have been installed in or on the bodies of their patients. Being able to remotely monitor pacemakers, for instance, allows medical practitioners to stay abreast of or even prevent major cardiac issues as they occur.
Patients who would otherwise have been shuffled back and forth between home and hospital for the rest of their lives can now enjoy more time at home with their loved ones. For the first time, wearables have made it possible for at-risk patients to avoid spending time in hospitals without endangering their health.
Wearable Tech Decentralizes Healthcare
The ultimate goal of healthcare can be summed up in the Hippocratic Oath: “Do no harm.” All too often, however, the insufficiencies of modern healthcare technologies bring patients to harm unintentionally. Transportation to hospitals or other clinical care environments is already arduous for many vulnerable patients, and due to the prevailing medical care model, uninsured patients may be turned away from the services they need the most.
Due to the failures of contemporary healthcare, therefore, many patients are already taking their health in their own hands. Facebook, Reddit, and other sources of hive-mind information are not suitable stand-ins for real physicians, however, which is putting many vulnerable patients further at risk.
Wearable technologies bring genuine healthcare into the homes of patients who would otherwise have shunned the modern medical establishment. Even patients who are fully compliant with contemporary allopathic medicine benefit from the decentralized approach to healthcare that wearable tech is bringing about.
As the recent COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear, centralizing healthcare in hospitals and other clinical care facilities is not only inefficient but also promotes the spread of infectious disease. Across dozens of different sectors, decentralization is becoming the rallying cry of technological development in the 21st century, and recent advancements in the healthcare benefits of wearable tech are assisting in this transition toward greater efficiency in medical care and further freedom for patients.