Wearable Technology in Healthcare

Beth Plumptre
June 6, 2023

The healthcare industry is no stranger to wearable technology. Back in the 50s, pacemakers were implanted to support heart function, with Holter monitors, portable EEG devices, and other machines arriving soon after to evolve patient monitoring systems. But while these gadgets pushed the envelope, digital technology has turbo-charged the bar for wearables in recent years, sparking what is shaping to be a new revolution in healthcare.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have recognized the importance of assessing and measuring health performance remotely. In 2021, around 300 million wearables were shipped — this number is projected to double to over 650 million by 2027. Wearables introduce a new level of personalization to healthcare, enhancing data-gathering for patients and healthcare professionals. In this guide, we’ll explore the impact of smartwatches, smart clothing, fitness trackers, and other wearable health solutions, as well as how these devices carry out the functions we’ve come to rely on.

How Does Wearable Technology Work?

Wearables answer the question: what would happen if we could monitor our health 24/7? These technologies are smart computers worn directly or close to the skin to track our internal biometric measurements. Using a gadget worn on your body, it’s possible to monitor your heart rate right after a brisk walk, keep track of blood pressure following a stressful encounter, monitor sleep to understand how rested you feel in the mornings, or even measure your temperature while managing a fever.

In 2023, 210 million people only have to look at the small screen of their smartwatches — the most common form of wearables — to get the above-listed readings. Likewise, users of smart rings and smart clothing enjoy similar benefits without needing to reach for devices like a blood pressure monitor or thermometer to track biometric information. Wearable devices contain built-in sensors like accelerometers to measure movement, optical sensors to monitor heart rate or glucose levels, plus gyroscopes to count steps. These portable devices are invaluable resources for detecting diseases and other health events before they occur. As a major pro, your wearable device also introduces simplicity in how easily you can track and record health data.

Wearables may store the collected health information directly to device storage, or in a cloud system. More often than not, your smartwatch or other device is supported by a mobile application where data is organized for easy access and sharing through measures like the Metriport Devices API . This standardized API simplifies integration with wearables for physicians and other healthcare professionals looking to continue care through a clearer picture of a patient’s health information.

Wearable devices also can make the most of health information by integrating directly with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Health Information Exchanges (HIE). This integration takes healthcare interoperability up a few notches, ensuring that collaboration between health systems employs a more complete and accurate patient health profile.

Types of Wearable Technology in Healthcare

In 2020, around 30% of U.S. adults used wearable technology to monitor their day-to-day wellbeing. These gadgets are widely common, and have become the final accessory to slide on when heading out the door to class, work, gym, or even to catch up with friends. Depending on their purpose for use, different types of wearable devices support various health needs, as listed below:

Health monitoring devices

These wearables are designed to measure vital signs and recognize irregularities before they become a major cause for concern. By strapping on your smartwatch, glucose monitor, or pain relieving device — you’re taking advantage of their monitoring benefits to keep an eye on your wellbeing. In addition to being fashionable and handy for health tracking, these monitoring wearables typically come as a joint deal with an easily accessible app. The data received from the device is saved to the app, which is then readily transmitted via API to physicians involved in patient care.

Fitness trackers

Fitness trackers are a good bet for anyone looking for accurate information on physical activity, progress made, and heart rate during or after exercise. To keep users in the best condition throughout the wellness journey, trackers may give recommendations via connected apps that track health information. Fitbit and Garmin watches are some of the most popular fitness companions on the market today. 

Therapeutic devices

Therapeutic devices bring the hospital home for patients managing a disease or undergoing treatment. Reducing the need for in-person supervision by healthcare professionals, wearables like smart gloves and electrotherapy devices provide rehabilitative care for patients that have lost control of hand movements, or are suffering from damaged or injured muscles. 

Benefits of Wearable Technology in Healthcare

Wearables are pushing the frontiers of health monitoring, diagnosis, and disease management across the United States and beyond. By combining the powers of digitization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, wearable technology is changing the healthcare landscape in the following ways:

Improving access to patient data

Despite being relatively new entries to the health ecosystem, wearables are right on the frontline of patient-centered care. A user only has to swipe freely through an application to discover patterns in heart rhythm, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep patterns, and other valuable metrics. Wearables are not bound by information blocking, or technical barriers to interoperability in healthcare. This ease of information ultimately leaves patients more informed and engaged in their healthcare.

Better lifestyle practices

By introducing real-time engagement with different health parameters, wearables can encourage improved lifestyles in users. For instance, gamification, a common feature of fitness trackers, keeps users motivated through leader boards, challenges, and goals. This approach ensures a renewed zeal to stay on top of physical well-being.

Enhancing medication adherence

Users can use advanced wearables as reminders to stay on top of their medication routines. This is especially in cases of complex medication schedules that may be easy to miss or mix-up. Wearables can also be used as a log or monitoring system to keep track of compliance or missed doses.

Advancing patient outcomes

Wearables contribute to an environment where patient lives and outcomes are strengthened. Using monitoring features, individuals and healthcare providers can observe vital signs while taking early notice of potential health issues. These devices also potentially reduce the need for in-person visits, a benefit particularly enjoyed by patients with chronic conditions that require routine observations and management.

The data regularly gathered by wearable devices can encourage a proactive approach to well-being by giving valuable insight to behavior and health patterns. Healthcare providers can employ this insight to provide personalized treatment plans to patients. Taken together, these features boost disease detection, patient management, plus personalized treatment, all of which contribute to reduced fees and better end results for the patient.

Moving Forward

Wearable devices have gone mainstream as a part of our daily health and wellness routines. While currently limited to patient health, it’s only a matter of time before these gadgets make their way as a standard feature and recommendation of medical settings.

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