Could wearables give patient more control over their health?
Medical patient monitoring devices are poised to disrupt the healthcare industry with the global market projected to reach $12.1 billion by 2021. With the ability to enhance the healthcare system by aiding in the remote monitoring of patients, wearables provide real-time access to health records and provide quicker diagnosis and treatment of conditions.
To discover what this could mean in the near future, imagine this – you get a notification on your wearable smart device that informs you that your heartrate is looking irregular. It then continues to monitor your vital signs. Two hours later, you receive a call from your doctor who delivers some alarming news, she informs you that you’re very likely to have a heart attack within the next 48 hours. She invites you into the clinic to seek emergency medical attention and thankfully, you’re able to receive treatment which prevents you from having a cardiac arrest. Following the treatment, you’re at home monitoring your biomarkers, test results, and other health information through an app. Within the app, you can observe how various health-influencing life habits, such as smoking, drinking and insufficient sleep, influence your chance of having future heart attacks. You can also set a health goal within the app, for example, to stop smoking, which automatically informs your doctor. The app will then suggest pharmaceuticals to help you ditch the nicotine and automatically sends the prescription to your local chemist. The app with then suggest a list of nearby support groups that can help you reach your health goal.
While this may sound like the stuff of science fiction, clinicians and AI experts around the world are already working on similar devices which have the potential to revolutionise the way we give and receive healthcare in the near future. Check out our top 5 below:
Wristband that detect seizures
A wristband called Embrace is capable of detecting seizures in patients suffering from epilepsy. The device, designed like a watch, monitors the body’s stress signals. Once a patient starts experiencing a seizure, the device vibrates and if it is not switched off by the user, it sends a message to a trusted friend or caregiver, via an app. It was designed by Rosalind Picard, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is currently available in Europe.
Patch for hospital out-patients
At Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, the chief of electrophysiology, Dr Nicholas Skipitaris, wanted to be able to monitor his patients’ vital signs outside of the hospital. Through a small, wearable patch called the Cor, Skipitaris hopes to track a patients heart rate. Additionally, those working on the device are designing it to be able to measure body temperature and blood pressure wirelessly, too.
Vests for detecting heart failure
SensiVest is a device created by cardiologists at the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital in Ohio. The device has been designed to warn doctors when previous heart failure patients are experiencing worsening symptoms. Based on military technology, the vest measures the levels of fluid in patients’ lungs and sends the information to doctor’s computers within 90 seconds. Should there be a noticeable increase in lung fluid, doctors can then adjust medication for the patient before it becomes an emergency.
Device that detects high fever
Fever Scout aims to simply monitor body temperature of risk groups such as babies, young children, post-operative patients, cancer patients and senior citizens. A flexible patch placed under the arm, it can measure temperature over time and share it with doctors. If there is a cause for concern, it sends an alert to the caregiver or doctor’s smartphone. It is able to synchronise with smartphones within 25 – 30 ft, although a signal amplifier can increase this to 130 ft.
Monitoring device for bedridden patients
Other doctors are keen to measure the vitals of those patients who are already hospitalised. The LIVE device can measure sleep patterns, heart rate, breathing, movement and other stress factors of bedridden patients.
One particular device was created to sense if a patient has fallen out of bed and works by using a piezoelectric sensor disk (a device that measure changes in pressure) which plugs into an outlet and is able to slide under a patient’s mattress. So if a patient falls out of bed, an alert will be sent to a mobile device to raise the alarm with caregivers and hospital staff. Since the beginning of 2017, the device has been available to consumers outside of hospitals and clinical studies have found it to be 92.5% accurate.
Wearable devices certainly present a huge opportunity for healthcare providers around the world, but the NHS still has quite a way to go before we’ll see this technology becoming mainstream. As with any new technology adoption there will be security fears and financial hurdles to overcome but, in an age, when the NHS desperately needs to turn their attention to a 21st century method of caregiving, wearables are certainly a welcome step in the right direction.
But wearable devices aren’t the only technology developments set to shape the future of the NHS, to find out how IoT solutions are empowering healthcare organisations to improve direct patient care and improve life expectancy, check out our recent blog here.