Monday, July 1, 2019

Physician Tips: What Are Wearables and How Are They Used In Healthcare?

For Fibronostics

First in a series looking into the potential impact of wearable medical devices on healthcare

Drop the term wearable health devices and most people think of Fitbit or the Apple watch, but wearable health tech is much more than a new class of consumer products. (published site)

While the healthcare impact of those two devices have been modest, their introduction sparked an intense competition to make wearable tech as much of a disruptive force in healthcare as smartphones were to cellular communications. Rapid technological advancements are making a convincing case that wearable health tech will do just that.

What is wearable healthcare technology?

Strictly speaking wearable health devices are a category of technology tools worn by a consumer that track or monitor health-related information, but insulin pumps clipped to a belt have been delivering therapy in addition to monitoring since 1976. Consequently, it is safe to say wearable healthcare technology is poised to cover the full range of healthcare delivery from detection, to diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

What is new about wearable health devices is the ability to connect patients and providers in real-time via the Internet using cell phone or otherconnection technology. As a result, the current model of going to the doctor for consultation is likely to be transformed over the next several years. Factor in the capabilities of big data and artificial intelligence and it is clear that wearable technology will spawn a revolution in healthcare.

Currently, most wearable health devices have been developed by the tech industry with little healthcare input, which has resulted in a lot of interesting devices searching for a clinical purpose. Now, however, more and more healthcare professionals are getting involved to define the needs and priorities as well as contribute to the development of the devices themselves.

In a recent review of wearable devices published in a special edition of the journal Sensors, the authors point out that is not enough to devise ways of capturing and measuring the myriad of human biosignals, it is essential to understand which signals contribute to better health analysis. It is important to differentiate between fitness/wellness monitoring and medical grade monitoring.

In terms of what doctors wants to know the five signals that continue to be considered vital signs are:

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Respiratory rate
  • Blood oxygen saturation, and
  • Body temperature
An additional five vital signals indicating different aspects of health have been proposed including capnography, stroke volume, heart electrical analysis, glucose monitoring, and neurological function, all of which are being evaluated for potential wearable medical devices.

As an example of a new wearable device that doesn’t just offer a wearable way to measure one of these vitalsigns the ViCardio is a medical grade device that actually improves on the current standard of care, the sphygmomanometer or blood pressure cuff.

Developed by physician and angiology expert Dr. Sandeep Shah, this wristwatch-like device directly measures blood pressure heartbeat to heartbeat, which offers the ability to take multiple readings over each 30 second measurement period.

By contrast, a sphygmomanometer or blood pressure cuff indirectly measures blood pressure by recording the differential in the pressure of the inflated cuff between the time the blood flow is stopped and provider hears the first Korotkoff sounds, as the cuff pressure is released and when the sounds are no longer heard. The result is essentially a blood pressure estimate.

The wrist-watch sized ViCardio can be worn comfortably by the patient for sustained periods allowing accurate beat-to-beat measurement for sustained, accurate, validated blood-pressure measurement to guide evaluation and treatment.

Other wearables that put hospital-grade measuring and monitoring devices in pocket or wrist band or even clothing include devices aimed at diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease, screening for breast cancer, glucose monitoring, and detecting atrial fibrillation.

While fitness monitoring is getting all the attention, developments in medical grade wearable devices are seen as potential disruptors in healthcare. In our next post, we’ll explore some of the ways wearables are changing healthcare delivery.

Fibronostics is committed to partnering with physicians and providers to improve patient care by offering the benefits of technology to improve lives,and deliver high-quality, life-improving disease education, evaluation and monitoring.

For more information contact us via email, or by phone at 1-888-552-1603.

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