Wearable health devices are becoming increasingly popular, and it seems like more devices are entering the market every day. According to a report by Grand View Research, the connected health and wellness device market is projected to reach $612 billion by 2024. The report attributes the projected growth to an increased interest in personalized health monitoring devices among consumers. It has also been estimated that one in five Americans owns some sort of wearable device.
What Is a Wearable?
A wearable device is any device that is worn on the body. While many people are familiar with fitness trackers that are worn on the wrist, wearable devices have expanded to include:
- Smart clothing, such as shirts that capture motion and heart rate and running shorts that track cadence and stride length.
- Smart rings that monitor steps and minutes active.
- Smart glasses that measure vision performance and can detect concussions.
- Smart ECG (electrocardiogram) monitors that attach to a user's chest and monitor heart activity
Many of the devices available today are geared toward consumers, but their applications and benefits can extend into health care.
Wearable Health Benefits
As a patient, you can use the data collected by your wearable device to provide your physician with a more complete picture of your health. If you use a wearable fitness tracker, the information it collects can help you determine your current level of physical activity. You and your provider can then use that baseline to set a goal, such as the number of steps you walk per day. Some fitness trackers allow users to add notes to daily activities, so you can write down why you met, exceeded, or did not meet your goal on certain days. That will allow you and your physician to adjust your fitness goals if necessary.
Wearable health devices may also be able to detect when you're about to get sick. Since the devices continuously monitor vital signs, they can detect changes from the baseline. According to a study published on PLOS, one researcher first became concerned when he noticed his wearable had measured an elevated heart rate and skin temperature. An antibody test later confirmed that he had contracted Lyme disease.
One piece of wearable technology on the horizon is a smart patch that automatically delivers insulin. According to the American Chemical Society, scientists have developed a patch that is covered in painless microneedles filled with tiny pouches of insulin. The pouches break apart and release insulin in response to rising glucose levels. The patch has been tested on mice, and the biomedical engineer who created the patch is hoping to bring it to market in the next five years.
As with any new technology, you may want to practice a bit of caution when using a wearable health device. One of the concerns some consumers are unaware of when it comes to wearable health devices is the privacy and safety of the data collected. Before purchasing a wearable device, research how the information it collects will be used. Devices that are provided by HIPAA-covered entities protect data according to HIPAA standards, but devices that aren't provided by HIPAA-covered entities may not be protected to the same standards.