Is Wearable Technology the Future of Healthcare?
Most of us have marveled at wearable technologies in movies like James Bond, Batman, StarTrek etc. And today, wearable technology is for real. In fact, 2014 may well go down in history as the year of wearable technology. Wearable technology has already made its impact on Education, Navigation, Communication and Entertainment; but perhaps, its greatest potential lies in Healthcare. Let us consider, the example of a 53 year old John Francis from Minnesota. Francis’ family has a history of suffering from high blood pressure. So when he heard about Apple’s blood pressure monitor iHealth, he bought it. iHealth could upload data to an iPhone or iPad app and it helped John Francis track his blood pressure on his phone. To his surprise, the reading showed that his blood pressure was low and it got worse with each passing day. One day, he found that the monitor was measuring his pulse rate at 30-35 beats per minute (normal rate is 60-100), he rushed to the hospital where he was told that if he waited few more days, it would have been fatal. John Francis is now fitted with a pacemaker, and he continues to monitor his blood pressure. iHealth, literally saved his life. This was an example which explains, how wearable technology can help common man, take care of his health. Wearable technology can aid doctors, too.
Drchrono, a digital health startup, has created a ‘wearable health record’ application that can be accessed through Google Glass. Doctors can use the application to store patient’s records as well as record medical visits and procedures via Glass’s camera, for consulting at a later date. Software firms have come up with applications that will allow doctors performing surgery, to simultaneously monitor patient’s vital signs, urgent lab results and surgical checklists through Google Glass. The surgeon does not have to take his eyes off the procedure or the patient, as all the vital data is displayed as a dashboard on the Glass. This allows the doctor to concentrate on the procedure and react to changes in vital signs, immediately.
Wearable technology has many more applications in Healthcare, apart from the examples that are quoted above. Huge amount of investments have been poured into the research on newer wearable technology by various organizations and you can see the reasons for yourself. Deloitte TMT Predictions 2014 predicts that smart glasses, fitness bands and watches, will sell about 10 million units in 2014, generating over $3 billion. According to an IDC report, consumers will buy nearly 112 million wearable computer devices by 2018, a 78.4% growth rate from 2014’s predicted sales. Most of these gadgets will be health related devices.
It is important to note that, a major factor that goes in favor of adoption of wearable technology is that, it can reduce hospital costs. According to a research conducted by Vitality Group, hospital costs could drop by as much as 16% over the course of 5 years. The biggest gainers from these are, however is going to be the tech start-ups, mobile app companies, creators of wearable devices like Smart watches, Health monitors, Pedometers, Activity trackers etc. that have a healthcare component to it. Health tech start-up, FitBit’s fitness bands accounted for 68% of the market share in 2013. Jawbone UP sales accounted for 19% share of all the devices sold that year.
Wearable technology promises to change the way healthcare service is rendered. It will lead to increased patient self-management and a deeper level of patient engagement with health, and which will definitely change the relationship between patients and doctors for ever. But, the growing popularity of wearable devices has caused some doctors and patients, to voice concerns over the breach of privacy and data security. While wearable smart devices are supposed to make rendering healthcare better, there is also the increased risk of information theft and third party access to data meant for only you and your doctor.
Nevertheless, Wearable technology is here to stay, and it is only a matter of time before we figure out on how to keep that data private and protected. With tech companies like Google, Apple and Samsung in the foray to research and develop wearable tech, and big money being spent on it, the future of Healthcare Wearable looks really promising!
Shuvro S Sarkar
Sr. Marketing Analyst, RapidValue Solutions