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How Wearable Technology Is Transforming Healthcare


Explore how wearable devices can help in self-care, disease prevention, and health management, extending beyond smartwatches to encompass an array of formats, from patches to accessories like the Oura Ring

Picture this: a world where your health isn't solely managed by healthcare professionals but seamlessly integrated into your day-to-day life. It's a reality driven by the rise of wearable technology, ordinary gadgets entwined into our daily routines that are revising healthcare management standards.

Wearable technology refers to devices worn on the body that provide a utile function beyond skin cover. These wearables come in various shapes, sizes, styles, and types, including smartwatches, smart glasses, smart rings, wristbands, implantable devices, and other accessories. From sleep patterns and stress levels to heartbeat monitoring and diet, wearables have become multifunctional companions that allow for proactive lifestyle adjustments and empower us to take charge of our health and well-being.

The concept of wearables isn't new; it has been evolving over several decades, gaining momentum with the convergence of technological advancements like miniaturization and the integration of sensors and connectivity.

The Benefits of Wearables for Patients and Providers

Integrating wearables into healthcare systems has revolutionized various aspects of patient support. The data collected by these gadgets supports preventive care by enabling continuous patient monitoring, enhanced diagnostic precision, potential early detection of health issues, and delivery of personalized medical attention. 

These devices also aid healthcare providers by remotely monitoring treatment efficacy to ensure timely interventions when needed. For example, patients managing chronic conditions can use devices to monitor blood pressure, glucose levels, or other health metrics as necessary to reveal changes that might otherwise go unnoticed early, allowing for a prompt response to help avert potential complications. 

Consequently, this can help cut medical costs by reducing the number of expensive hospital visits and unnecessary treatments. By 2027, the remote patient monitoring tools in wearable technologies are projected to cut hospital expenses by 16%, potentially saving $200 billion by 2037.

Wearables can also help boost patient involvement in healthcare. Through real-time data, these devices empower individuals to actively engage in self-care. Approximately 80% of illnesses can be prevented through lifestyle changes, and technology is emerging as an effective tool in fostering healthier habits.

According to Deloitte, worldwide adoption of consumer health and wellness wearables hit 320 million units in 2022, with projections expecting this number to surpass 440 million units by 2024. This surge is driven by new product launches and growing public acceptance, especially from healthcare providers. Currently, 25% of Americans own a wearable device.

Innovative Wearable Technologies in Healthcare

The new frontier in wearable technology transcends the familiar realm of smartwatches. The following examples represent a fraction of the innovative devices driving this healthcare revolution:

  • Oura Ring: developed by one of 2Future's portfolio companies, this accessory is equipped with advanced sensors that analyze live data to offer guidance across three essential domains: sleep quality, activity tracking, and readiness. This helps users optimize their overall health in real time, and the collected data helps identify patterns linked to potential health hazards.
  • Wear A+: this wearable air purifier surrounds the user's face with filtered air, reducing allergy symptoms caused by irritants such as pollen, dust, pet dander, and mold. Worn like a neck collar, it’s a drug-free solution for allergy management.
  • Myoovi: this pad eases menstrual cramps by utilizing a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine. It emits minor electrical pulses to intercept or diminish pain signals traveling to the spinal cord and brain, ultimately alleviating discomfort for the user. 
  • Accurable: the small wireless device detects obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a chronic condition marked by interruptions in breathing during sleep that is estimated to affect around 25 million Americans. OSA can lead to severe conditions like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, dementia, and heart attacks. 
  • Neural Sleeve: the first bionic clothing for mobility impairment employs electrical pulses and artificial intelligence (AI) to assist individuals with restricted mobility from conditions like multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, and strokes. It encircles the leg and utilizes functional electrical stimulation (FES) combined with algorithms to deliver precise sequences. The sleeve becomes unnecessary as the brain relearns how to activate those muscles.

It's crucial to highlight that none of these devices are meant for diagnosing, monitoring, treating, curing, or preventing medical conditions or illnesses alone. Consulting a doctor or other medical professional is always essential to ensure proper treatment. 

Future-Forward Care

Wearables are expected to significantly reduce healthcare professionals' time with patients without compromising quality care. In a recent study on two healthcare systems utilizing wearables, digital care programs outperformed standard care in important aspects.

For the first one, physicians obtained live data from diabetes patients' wearable devices, enhancing supervision and results while reducing the need for in-person visits. With continuous glucose monitors, patients reduced clinician phone consultations by half while improving diabetes management and freeing up doctors' time. 

In the other healthcare system, a digital health program for high blood pressure yielded encouraging results as 71% of patients reached their target blood pressure, surpassing the 31% under standard care.

It’s important to recognize that while wearable healthcare devices offer significant benefits and promise, they pose challenges in fully reaching their potential as robust healthcare tools. Ensuring accuracy and reliability in measurements are essential for actionable insights. Thus, developers are increasingly investing in research to prove their technology’s safety, effectiveness, and value. 

Additionally, safeguarding data privacy and security is vital due to the collection of sensitive health data; clear regulations are necessary for enhancing transparency regarding data ownership and utilization.

As technology advances, wearables are positioned to assume a critical role in shaping the future of healthcare. These devices promise more sophisticated data collection and analysis capabilities, highlighting their potential to enhance patient results, cut costs, and further boost the ongoing revolutionization of healthcare management. 

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