Jobs and the Future of Work

How wearable tech is transforming healthcare

Gayatri Gopal
writer, SAP Community Network
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The healthcare industry has been a slow adopter of technology applications mainly due to its fragmented and highly complex systems. However, with the advent of Internet of Things (IoT), wearable technology and smart connected devices, patients get an opportunity to take charge of their health and act upon it. Healthcare providers no longer remain custodians of patient information and can positively influence patients to enhance engagement and health outcomes.

McKinsey research on the growth of sensors indicate that innovations in sensors has compressed from three- to four-year cycles into six to eight months with a significant reduction in costs. While current sensor-based IoT devices in health are primarily in the area of wellness/activity tracking, remote diagnostics and chronic disease management, ingestible and contactless sensors that can sense odor, electromagnetic activity, and flow are a few years from becoming commercially available. This has the potential to provide a lot of value to increase transparency and efficiency in the healthcare system thereby reducing overall costs.

Here are examples of IoT this case Internet of Health (IoH) devices empowering patients and providers with data and revolutionizing healthcare.

1. Wellness and Sports Activity Tracking:

  • Fitness trackers: Fitness trackers are by far the most popular and accessible of IoH devices on the market. Sensors on trackers like Jawbone, Fitbit to NuMetrex’s cardio shirts automatically monitor and track physical activity levels, heart rate, calories burned etc. on a daily basis and sync all the health information to smartphones or laptops.
  • Running wearables: runScribe claims to be the most advanced running wearable offering athletes access to 13 kinematic metrics like pronation velocity, impact and braking Gs which would earlier have been possible only in a lab. Providing runners insights into their mechanics can help in shoe selection and reduce injuries.
  • Breath analyzers: Breathometer developed Breeze and Mint smart devices monitor alcohol consumption, track oral health and hydration by analyzing breath quality compounds like Hydrogen Sulfide, Methyl Mercapthan and Hydrogen Disulfide levels in parts per billion.

2. Smart Diagnostics:

  • Home health: Cue, a deep health device tracks 5 key health and lifestyle indicators: C-reactive protein (CRP) a marker of inflammation, vitamin D, Luteinizing Hormone (LH) levels in fertility, influenza marker, and testosterone to maximize performance and energy. It requires only a few minutes to analyse the data and provide health recommendations using droplets of saliva, blood, or a nasal swab, .
  • Telehealth devices: Physical examination in Telehealth just became possible withMedWand, a portable device that measures standard clinical data points collected by primary care physicians while examining patients. The device includes an in-ear thermometer, heart rate sensor, blood oxygen sensor, camera, digital stethoscope, disposable specula and can wirelessly integrate data from a glucometer or BP cuff. Patients can then share this Electronic Health Record (EHR) with their physicians.
  • Mobile lab devices: Companies like Theranos and Nanobiosym aim to put health in the hands of the patient using cutting-edge mobile diagnostic devices that analyze and send results directly to the patients’ mobile app or can be integrated into an EHR. This enables health monitoring and detection of diseases such as HIV, Ebola and Cancer at a fraction of the cost of conventional lab tests.

3. Chronic Disease Management:

  • Remote cardiac care: BodyGuardian Heart is an FDA approved wearable sensor system that remotely monitors patients’ biometrics (ECG, heart rate, respiration rate and activity Level), sending the data to the patients physician. This helps generate deeper insights into patients’ health esp. in an ambulatory care setting.
  • Inhaler attachments: Respiratory disease management devices like Propeller andCareTRx are inhaler attachments that provide valuable information on medication use, environmental exposures and onset of symptoms. This helps improve medication adherence and control or prevent asthma/COPD attacks.
  • Smart bandages*: Flexible bioelectronics use flexible sensors and electronics to monitor wounds that require ongoing care, such as burns, diabetic ulcers and bed sores. This smart band-aid system will not only deliver medicine, but also monitor all the vital signs of the healing process like oxygen levels, temperature, and make adjustments accordingly.

4. Medication Adherence:

  • Medication adherence reminders: Smart wireless pill bottles and GlowCaps fit on top of prescription bottles use technology to improve and track adherence in real time sending customizable alerts and refill reminders as well as aid physician coordination.
  • Biomonitoring drugs: Ingestible sensor pills developed by Proteus Digital Health is a FDA approved digital health feedback system. Embedded in a tablet, the sensors communicates actual intake time, steps, rest and heart rate to a patch worn on the stomach, which further communicates to a mobile app via Bluetooth. This provides real-time insights into medication adherence and physiological response to therapy.

Digital health solutions, especially IoH-driven health improvement services, are expected to generate $600 to $800 billion of global opportunity by 2018. Leading the way are IoH devices, with apps and services likely to drive 70% of profits.(1)

Therefore, it becomes imperative to build healthcare platforms that not only keep pace with advancements in sensor technology and IoH devices but also account for future innovations.

*Research in Progress.

Source: 1.Mckinsey – Unlocking digital health: Opportunities for the mobile value chain

This article is published in collaboration with SAP Community Network. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Gayatri Gopal writes for the SAP Community Network. 

Image: A woman jogs along the river. REUTERS/Brian Snyder.

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Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkFourth Industrial RevolutionEconomic GrowthEmerging Technologies
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