- Use Cases
When you think of wearable devices in relation to health care, you likely imagine devices that analyze sleep patterns, measure your heart rate, or monitor your blood oxygen. They're all largely designed to collect superficial data about the state of well-being of a younger, relatively healthy group of people, and are marketed as such. Meanwhile, the demographic who could undeniably benefit most from wearable technology, the older or chronically ill people, are largely ignored.
A recent article in Wired Magazine suggests that wearable devices have the potential to break up the $2 trillion annual cost of chronic disease. Good news when you consider hospital resources are scarce and nurses are already stretched to maintain regular rounds every 4-8 hours. In cases of chronic care, where patients have a more acute condition that requires frequent monitoring, nurses aren’t always available, which may result in a patient's condition worsening.
About half of all Americans have one or more chronic conditions ranging from heart disease and diabetes to kidney disease and asthma, just to name a few. These conditions account for the majority of deaths in the United States, and up to 86 percent of health care expenditures. Diabetes alone costs Americans $245 billion a year. However, these chronic diseases don't need to take such huge personal or economic tolls. Digitizing components of health and healthcare delivery can improve the situation for patients, their doctors, and the country.
Fortunately, there are companies like Zephyr Technologies who are creating medical-grade wearable technologies. The BioPatch – a small bandaid-like device – can be attached to a patient’s chest to monitor vital signs, transmit data back to nursing staff and, using a color-coded alarm system, notify them when a patient is in distress.
All this operates without the multitude of cables and wires required to hook the person up to a monitoring system, thus allowing health care workers to monitor patients 24-7, without actually seeing the patient or waking them up to check their vitals.
When combined with hospital wayfinding, wearable technologies can also improve safety for patients. By distinguishing staff from patients, alerts can be triggered when patients enter areas of the hospital that are off limits, such as surgery rooms, laboratories, contaminated areas, and, in some cases, when a patient inadvertently wanders out of the hospital building.
The combination of medical-grade wearable devices, wayfinding software, mobile devices and location-based services has the potential to improve patient care and reduce costs in a hospital. Increased safety, patient monitoring, optimized navigation, and information security are just a few of the areas in which wearable devices make significant differences.
Updated January 1, 2019: This post was originally published on June 11th, 2015 and has been updated to provide more information.
Jean Moncrieff is Jibestream's Location Independent Marketing Lead – current location, Italy. In addition to all things marketing, he loves travel, writing, and red wine. Currently experimenting with vegetarianism.