According to researchers, physicians will be able to triage a patient’s status and their need to be seen by monitoring the data generated by wearable devices and analyzed by an Artificial Intelligent (AI) system. Fo example, many patients may go to their doctor and have a high blood pressure at that visit prompting the doctor to monitor the blood pressure more closely. This has become common practice but has proven to be very difficult to get the patient to be compliant in performing this task. The reasons for this may include, the patient forgetting to take or document the blood pressure or a lack of education of the process. Monitoring a patient’s vital signs can be a critical part of the plan of care but it’s often a struggle to get patients to do it.

In office visits aren’t always the right answer, as a patient will often get “white coat syndrome” at the doctor. For example, the stress of being at the doctor can cause a patient to have abnormally high blood pressure so this must be considered. Because of this, a physician may ask the patient to go home and keep track of their vital signs but has been proven to be ineffective in the past for the reasons listed above.

History Of Wearables Is Poor

Traditionally, the medical community hasn’t considered wearables useful for research or treatment because they normally don’t provide sufficient data that can be used to test validity under experimental situations. Some comparisons between fitness wearables have shown large variations in accuracy between devices, with error margins of up to 25%. Dependability is an issue if consumer devices are ever going to cross over into consideration for any medical applications. However, because of technology improvements, wearables have come a long way over the past several years and closed the errors gaps and are now considered accurate enough to use for day to day monitoring in homes and even in clinical settings.

Nightingale Project Was A Trailblazer

In November 2016, the Nightingale Project was launched after receiving a grant from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020. The purpose of this project was to challenge the technology to produce better and more advanced wireless and wearable technology to monitor patients at home and in the hospital. The team had the important task of documenting and recording vital signs and reporting on patients to see if the new technology could improve and automate this process. In the hospital setting this could mean the medical team is alerted immediately when a patient’s vital signs become unstable. This is critical and could mean life or death in some situations. Presently, this task is being performed when vital signs can change quickly and a major medical mishap could occur without knowing it.

Hospital Are Now Piloting Programs

Pilot programs in hospitals are indicating wearables such as heart monitors in biosensor patches are helping the healthcare team monitor and track patients during acute illnesses and recovery. These findings also have the potential to reduce the amount of hospital readmissions.

Wearable Technology Studies Go Off The Medical Campus

Medical programs based on wearables are also being performed outside the hospital and are proving to be effective. One example of this is the Apple Watch and Cardiogram App. Cardiogram is a heart monitoring app that uses the data generated by an Apple Watch. The app continuously monitors the wearers heart rate while the watch is worn. UCSF performed the Health EHeart Study in March 2016 through February 2017. According to, Apple Watch is detecting heart irregularity with 97% accuracy. Although the data is there, this may not be good enough for an actual diagnosis but is great for a screening tool. The data provided is giving engineers information about predicting atrial fibrillation (AFib) in the wearer, which is an irregular heartbeat. AFib may lead to clots, stroke, heart failure or other heart-related complications. Sometimes people may feel skipped beats or palpitations, nauseous, light headed or weak. Other times people have no symptoms at all and the only way to catch it is with continuous monitoring.

Examples of Other Wearable Technology

Motio HealthWear has launched the first wearable medical device to detect Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses that is a result of the airway collapsing or being blocked during sleep. According to Neogia, the maker of HealthWear, 6% of the world population suffers from Sleep Apnea and is most common in overweight people but can also result from enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Motio HealthWear collects data, processes it into an algorithm to prevent, diagnose and monitor Sleep Apnea. The main characteristics of the algorithms are compiled together to determine the quality of sleep. Sleep Apnea can produce many additional medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and increased road accidents. 90% of people suffering from sleep apnea are not diagnosed, according to Neogia.

TempTraq is a wearable wireless patch for hands-free temperature monitoring for your child. It uses wireless technology to send your child’s temperature reading to any nearby mobile device. TempTraq monitors 24 hours without disturbing your sick child. The data collected provides current temperature, alerts when a fever spikes, gives a reminder when your child ate, drank or took medicine and the data is easily shared with your doctor or other family members.

Qardio has introduced a few devices to the healthcare market worth mentioning. The company’s co-founder, Marco Peluso was inspired to create Qardio after his father suffered a stroke while they were on a plane. Peluso had become frustrated with the lack of home monitoring systems available that perhaps could have indicated a problem with his dad. Peluso joined with Rosario Iannella and created a device to monitor readings in and outside of the home. QardioArm Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor was the first product and offers easier blood pressure monitoring, accurate readings of blood pressure and heart rate, and detects irregular beats. Readings are automatically stored on your smartphone or tablet for convenience. The QardioArm only weighs over half a pound making it easily portable anywhere. QardioCore is a wireless EKG/ECG. Unlike the sticky patches on your skin, QardioCore engages a multi-sensor EKG which sits comfortably around your ribcage and measures your body temperature, respirations, heart rate, stress, and activities. Additionally, to heart rate monitoring, QuardioCore has features that help athletes train more efficiently. It uses an accelerometer and gyro to watch running form to determine if you’re slouching and measures cadence.

BloomLife makes a wearable device, worn strapped around pregnant mothers to track contractions in her uterus. A disposable patch is worn on the abdomen which holds a pod of electronics used for monitoring. The use of this device enables pregnant women to interpret gas pains to Braxton hicks to labor. BloomLife is not offering diagnostic tools at this time but helps parents understand the pregnancy better. BloomLife offers a weekly rental fee which is a great option as the pregnancy is a temporary situation.

Wearables Improve Medical Compliance

Habitually, people forget to take their medications, skip doses or fail to follow the order properly. People also forget to take their blood pressure and heart rate, document, track and report back to the provider. If a person has been recently discharged from the hospital this can result in re-admittance or a longer recovery time from illness. This is also a strain to the healthcare system, insurance, healthcare team, not to mention the patient. The use of wearable technology has eased the burden of documenting and tracking to assist the patient. Tracking and reporting vital signs to the physician is necessary to make the patient take ownership and become more proactive in their healthcare.

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Christine Kerravala, RN

Christine Kerravala is a Principal Analyst with a dedicated focus on the healthcare industry. Christine has deep expertise in healthcare having been a Registered Nurse since 2005 and currently holds licenses in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. She specializes in the area of medical surgery, cardiac care, school nursing, home care and Alzheimer’s.
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