While we have seen the industry diversify, and even grow closer to a place in mainstream healthcare over the past few years, we still have a long way to go before these devices become a routine part of healthcare.
The biggest hurdle to face is likely the accuracy concerns and the resulting distrust from doctors. However, in an ideal world, where these devices could match the standard of hospital devices, wearables could be an excellent resource for our healthcare systems,7 providing both a means of preventative care and a way of remotely monitoring patients, and consequently reducing the strain on time-poor physicians.
This idea is already being trialled in some organisations, such as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals (NNUH) NHS Foundation Trust, who have created a 24/7 ‘virtual ward’ designed to help patients recover in their own homes rather than in an in-patient ward, with the help of a wearable on-arm device that measures heart rate, SpO2, respiratory rates and more.7
It will be interesting to see where the industry will go from here, if further NHS trusts will follow in the NNUH’s footsteps, and if we will start to see wearable devices establish themselves as part of mainstream healthcare.8
As it stands, most apps are riddled with disclaimers about how they are not designed to diagnose or treat, but it feels almost inevitable that this will change and there will come a time whereby a huge spectrum of (regulated) apps and devices will assist us in managing our health.
Health wearable integration into mainstream healthcare might not just alter the logistics, efficiency and effectiveness of the system, it could also influence the way in which we communicate with patients. As a creative digital health agency, communicating with patients and facilitating dialogue between patients and HCPs (via apps and other channels) is a key part of what we do. Typically, patient-facing communications are focussed on information provision and awareness campaigns that drive patients to discuss matters with HCPs. But by giving the patient more control and insight, and by encouraging more of a partnership between patient and HCP, it will be interesting to see if the tone and language we use, as well as the sophistication and detail within the apps we develop, alters as a result.
But for now, we watch and wait.
Just a few years on from our last article and we can already see huge developments in the technology and functionality of wearables. It’s exciting to think, in another few years, how this capability will have been applied and, coupled with trend identification from mass data generation, the influence it may have already had on our health as a whole.