Wearables in Institutional Healthcare
Getting healthier and living longer
Whether or not you believe in climate change, it’s hard to deny that we, humans, have considerably damaged or polluted the planet in the past century in more than one way. It seems that, as a society, we are now slowly coming to grips with this fact. In some cases, we are desperately trying to reverse the damage, or the pollution caused, thus fueling a global megatrend of returning to the old, more nature-friendly ways of doing things. It comes as no surprise that this trend brings a collective desire for better health and longevity with it, or to be more in sync with the planet.
Tracking our health
Technologically, we are better equipped than ever to take our health into our own hands and improve it. It starts with tracking our vitals and getting better at diagnosing different symptoms before jumping to conclusions and commencing expensive, less-than-natural, and often unnecessary treatments. Health-tracking is now within reach for many consumers, thanks to widely available wearable IoT devices, such as smart watches, health trackers and monitors.
In addition to personal usage, there are countless advantages to introducing wearables to inpatient care at clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and sanatoriums. Generally, institutionalized wearables and health trackers are recommended for patients over 65 years of age. Of course, if costs weren’t an issue, health trackers could be implemented for every single patient staying at a healthcare facility overnight. They can even be used for tracking vitals beyond clinic visits – helping collect valuable patient data and aiding healthcare professionals in better interpretation of health conditions.
Benefits of implementing IoT in healthcare
Some of the main advantages of adopting wearable trackers in healthcare institutions or as part of auxiliary care at-home include:
- Tracking patient safety, including fall detection
- Heart health tracking, including heart rate, atrial fibrillation, and cardiac arrhythmia monitoring
- Detecting serious health problems early, i.e. hypertension or cardiac arrest
- Preventing complex and expensive interventions at a later stage
- Reducing the frequency of doctor and emergency room visits
- Faster recovery from surgery and better post-operative outlook
- Reducing healthcare and insurance costs
- Improving the quality of patients’ lives
Institutionalizing wearables in healthcare
The main barriers to industry-wide adoption of IoT devices in healthcare currently include the high cost of institutionalizing them, lack of readiness, and system integration complexity, among others. Still, in the past few years we have seen clear signs that wearables are becoming better integrated into healthcare facilities and are slowly enhancing long-term care.
According to recent media reports, Apple is already negotiating with insurance carriers in the U.S. about subsidizing the costs of Apple watches that they would like to introduce to the industry on a wide scale. Aside from this being a commercially interesting proposition for Apple, the company believes that by making the devices more accessible, they can directly and positively impact patient health outcomes. The latest Apple watch model (series 4) includes advanced health tracking features, such as a heart rate monitor, an EKG tracker, and fall detection.
The future of health trackers
Even though the proliferation of wearables in healthcare is still ways away, in the coming years we are bound to see a surge of digital healthcare monitoring globally. This will likely lead to more timely and accurate diagnoses, prevention-focused approaches to fighting chronic disease, and a more holistic look on well-being – from diet, exercise, and stress reduction to monitoring and treatment of illnesses.
What can patients do in the meantime? Although your clinic, hospital, or doctor might not yet offer this level of health tracker integration into their approach to healthcare, there is much we can do independently already. We can start by tracking our health with simple IoT devices like smartwatches or home-use blood pressure monitors and making sense of our vital data from blood tests, electrocardiograms, and other diagnostics we have had done during checkups over the years. It is up to each one of us to construct an accurate chronology of our health history in order to understand when and how problems could have initially started, and how to prevent them from progressing.