With products like smartphones, smartwatches and fitness trackers, there has been enormous growth in the wearable technology industry. These devices are becoming so popular that it’s projected that the global wearable market will reach 19 billion dollars in 2018, which is more than five times the size of the market in 2013, according to Juniper Research.
One of the most prevalent applications of wearable tech is in fitness and healthcare, as many of these devices are designed to track changes in heart rate, breathing and other vital signs. These measure progress in exercise, monitor particular health issues and can even determine intoxication levels. As these technologies advance over the next few years, wearable health devices may become much smaller, more integrated with the human body, more personalized and comfortable, more efficient and more accurate.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways people are using wearable health technology now and what's in store for the future:
More Data for Doctors
According to a survey by Orange Healthcare, 88 percent of physicians want their patients to monitor and track their health while at home. On livescience.com, foot and ankle doctor Robert Duggan explains that new breakthroughs in wearable technology enable health professionals to collect a more comprehensive set of data for every patient, which helps them tailor treatment plans to the individual. For example, Duggan has started to use wearable devices to monitor his patients as they recover from injuries. So, if one of his patients has suffered a stress fracture, he can monitor the data collected by a wearable health device to ensure the patient has decreased his or her activity level to allow the injury to heal.
Duggan states that many wearable devices are capable of being used by patients and doctors, but the difficulty lies in incorporating this information into electronic medical records. There are currently personal devices such as the iPhone 6 that come with a built-in health app that can integrate with other personalized health applications to document and organize all of a person's health data. However, there are still some developments that need to be made before wearable devices will be able to access official medical records and update them in real time. Once this is accomplished, doctors will be provided with an abundance of information with which they can help guide their patient’s health and it will be well organized and ordered, making it easier to find key data.
Gamification of Exercise and Physical Therapy
Innovative devices like the Valedo Back Therapy are combining well-proven physical therapy exercises with video games similar to Nintendo’s Wii and Xbox’s Kinect to add more fun to your exercise routine. With Valedo, you attach a couple of smart sensors to different parts of your body to serve as controllers for various games. As you move your body through different physical therapy exercises for your lower back, you influence the path of your avatar through different stages and missions of the games. All of your movements are tracked during the game, and the better you perform, the higher the score you achieve.
Monitoring and Prevention of Serious Disease
When it comes to diseases and illnesses, wearable health technology will play a major role in helping people track, monitor and even prevent serious health issues in the future. For example, with specialized devices, diabetics will be able to easily track their blood glucose levels so they'll know when to take their medication.
Another innovative gadget designed by Cyrcadia Health is a smart bra that helps women track the conditions and rhythms of the tissue in their breasts so they can be alerted to any early warning signs of cancer. This device, which has been dubbed the iTBra, has been tested on over 500 women and has successfully offered vital information for the diagnosis of breast cancer for 87 percent of the participants.