You may have heard of "wearable technology," which is, well, technology that is in some way "wearable." Wearable technology has broken into (and found success in) multiple industries, including communication, education, and entertainment. Now innovations in this realm have made their way into healthcare. The potential impact in the industry is huge. If you think FitBit and other wearable pieces like it have made a splash, you may be surprised to hear that that's just the beginning. Even conservative projections seem to predict that things are just getting started. It is estimated that by 2018 over 130 million consumers will have purchased some type of wearable device, and there's no reason they wouldn't also accept the technology in doctors' office or hospitals.
Wearable technology in healthcare could mean that doctors get assistance in the operating room, have easy access to patient records, and encourage patients to monitor their own health. There are a number of themes to the devices being designed for use in the healthcare sphere. One of these is information. If you've had much experience going to doctor's offices, you know that one of the challenges healthcare providers face is that different pieces of information are isolated from each other. Offering wearable devices to people that put all patient data on a single, protected network could solve that problem.
Another theme that underlies this movement is community. Wearable technologies that would bring people together based on common health goals, such as weight loss, running times, certain diets, or maintaining heart heath, have the potential to create supportive healthcare communities. Lastly, designs for certain types of "wearables" could include a gaming element that taps into peoples' innate love of competition. Comparing your progress toward healthcare goals with a huge network of other participants can be not just fun, but also incredibly motivating.
Here are some examples of innovations in wearable technology:
Nursery 2.0: A sensor-enhanced onesie for babies that monitors a baby's activities and can be tracked on a parent's coffee mug.
Freescale KL02 Chip: a chip that can be swallowed or embedded directly into an organ that then sends biometric readings back to healthcare providers via Wi-Fi.
Google Glass: a set of high-tech "smart" glasses that can provide surgeons with multiple points of views during operations and can also be used in medical training.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Patch: a patch that delivers weak electrical stimulation to chronic pain suffers to reduce pain; also includes Bluetooth connectivity so physicians and patients can monitor their symptoms on their smart phones.
Misfit Shine/Jawbone fitness bands: two different types of wearable wristbands that monitor sleep patterns, nutritional intake, fitness, and bodily functions and encourages users to make changes in line with achieving their goals.
In addition to improving patient health and making healthcare more fun, wearables will potentially reduce healthcare costs by identifying trends among various demographics and increasing the effectiveness of preventative and predictive care. Wearable technology also encourages patients to take responsibility for their healthcare and to be more accountable by making healthcare data both easily accessible and interactive.
About the Author:
Iris Stone has worked as a freelance writer since 2011. Her writing has included content on medicine, healthcare, and education, although her interests are wide and varied. Prior to breaking into the freelance biz, Iris worked in sales for a health company and prior to that as an assistant in a chiropractic office. She is currently attending George Mason University and is majoring in Political Science. Check out her Google+ profile.