Wearable devices that monitor and transmit personal activity or medical data are driving a revolution in connected healthcare. These devices – often called wearables – range from fitness trackers to medical sensors that allow patients to monitor their own health, and enable healthcare providers to identify and respond to patient needs in real time.
Wearables use connected sensors to collect and transmit information. According to the SAP eBook, Connected Care: The Digital Pulse of Global Healthcare, the proliferation of connected sensors is generating vast amounts of data, which can be used to develop personalized medicine and treatment options to improve patient outcomes.
Wearable sensors can be generally split into two categories:
- Personal wellness devices help consumers get fit and avoid diseases. Fitness trackers that monitor daily exercise, heart rate statistics, and sleep patterns are among the most popular devices in this category. Users can collect their own data and track their progress, which often motivates them to improve. These types of wearables range from wrist bands to shirts, and even include smart tattoos that can measure the level of lactic acid in an athlete’s sweat.
- Medical-grade devices involve wearable sensors that can provide clinically relevant data remotely or in conventional healthcare settings. These include:
- Biosensors that can be worn or embedded. These are used to monitor vital signs remotely and detect and transmit data based on physiological changes including blood pressure, heart rhythm, and brainwaves.
- Nanochips that can be ingested or implanted. These can detect tumors, antibody signals, and Type 1 diabetes. Ingestible sensors are also being used for drug applications. Once the chip is swallowed in medication, it emits a signal to help track patient dosage.
Benefits of wearable technology
Connected devices provide multiple benefits to healthcare providers and to patients. Wearables can monitor chronic medical conditions, track sleep and fitness routines, and even remind patients to take their medicine, do their exercise, or eat regularly.
Patient engagement is one of the greatest benefits of wearable technology. Since patients are able to monitor and track their own progress, they can make real-time decisions based on the data collected. As a result, they are more likely to take responsibility for their own well-being and are often motivated to make the changes necessary to improve their health.
Easing the pain of healthcare costs
Wearable technology also eases the strain on overcrowded hospitals and clinics. Consistent monitoring of health conditions can reduce the number of in-person visits to medical facilities, which in turn can reduce healthcare costs. Wearables that monitor vital signs can also enable more timely treatment, and can even help preempt some medical crises, which also reduces costly hospital stays. Remote sensors in mobile devices could eventually replace some medical equipment currently located in overloaded hospitals, doctors’ offices, and laboratories, which could reduce medical costs even more.
The promise of wearable technology is driving many healthcare organizations to continue exploring new opportunities in this area.
Listen to a detailed discussion about wearables in the SAP Radio show, Connected Care: Can Wearable Technology Improve Your Health?
For an in-depth look at how technology is changing the face of healthcare, download the SAP eBook, Connected Care: The Digital Pulse of Global Healthcare.
See how the digital era is affecting the business environment in the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.
Discover the driving forces behind digital transformation in the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.