The Coming Revolution of Wearable Technology and Healthcare

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post

There is no doubt that wearable technology is becoming a rapidly growing part of the world around us.

With the vast number of possible applications, ease of use, and increasing technology, this category will change our lives in ways we have still yet to see.

Not surprisingly, one of the most exciting and sought after uses for this technology is in the healthcare field.

But is there going to be a revolution in the healthcare world just because of wearable?

We think so. In fact, it’s already started.

Let’s Get Specific

When we say “revolution” we’re not talking about a forcible overthrow for a new system, but more along the line of how Google defines it.

rev·o·lu·tion (revəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n): a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it.

A Dramatic Entrance

Wearable computing has been around since the 1960’s, but in recent years, it’s seen an incredible jump in popularity. The main cause for this has been lower component cost. This affordability has led to a renaissance in the industry and has produced things like better headphones, the GoPro, Apple Watches, and Fitbits.

The popularity of these products led to both 2014 and 2015 being dubbed “the year of wearable technology” by several major publications.

Cool new gadgets are fueling quite a bit of the excitement, but that’s not where most people are looking for the change.

The most dramatic changes we are seeing are coming directly from the health and medical fields.

Fitness Data Can be fun

Everyone (whether they admit it or not) knows that a body needs exercise. We all also know that proper nutrition is very important, but these facts don’t seem to impact, or even slow, the ever-increasing obesity problem in most first world countries.

Although, with fitness tracking devices you can track your progress in multiple ways which is having a dramatic impact on personal health.

Before healthcare devices and apps, the only metric you could easily track was your weight.

Now, you can receive live data on blood pressure, activity levels, and even your sleep patterns on a daily basis.

This data can “gamify” your physical data helping you continue improving your personal health on your own. You can also stay on track with members of the growing wearable fitness community by comparing your results and getting encouragement from others.

Health Data Can Save Lives

The healthcare industry hasn’t always been known for its speed. Sitting in waiting rooms, exam rooms, or even your home while your doctor looks up medical records and test results can be exhausting at best, but detrimental to your health at worst.

That’s why many doctors and healthcare professionals are adopting wearable tech as a means to streamline the diagnosis and treatment process.

With items doctors can wear they would receive all necessary records while they are with the patient. Doctors could see incredible implications, and even save more lives.

For example, an emergency room doctor has a patient that is unconscious for an unknown reason.

Typically, that doctor would have to log into a computer or tablet and hope to find a clue as to what has happened.

With wearable tech, the same doctor could open up that database with a simple QR code to find that mixed medications have caused an allergic reaction and immediately prescribe or implement treatment.

All at once. In the same room.

Between the fast rise of their popularity and life-saving implications, wearable technology has clearly made a dramatic entrance and is changing the way we view our health and in the way doctors will treat us.

A Wide-Reaching Change

According to the definition (the one we’ve proposed at least), wearable tech has to both be dramatic and wide reaching.

So, do we have a bona fide revolution on our hands?

Wearable technology, in and of itself, has become a wide-reaching industry. Since the early phases of the modern wearable movement (e.g. GoPro in 2004, Pebble watch in 2012, etc.) it has become a huge category.

Overall, the industry is expected to reach anywhere from $19 to $30 billion a year by 2018.

But what about healthcare?

This is where things get tricky.

Not that wearable isn’t a huge industry all by itself because it is. In fact, the explosion of wearable tech was led by wrist-worn fitness bands.

Wrist wear is holding about 90% of the worldwide category market share. Over 34 million of these fitness bands were shipped in 2015 alone, making them both dramatic and widespread items.

Data, Data Everywhere (Soon)

The tech that is currently on the market is mainly for the wrist. A fact that is going to change quickly.

Some seemingly far-fetched projects are about to hit the market creating an explosion of information.

Shirts that track your breathing and heart rate, socks that can calculate your blood pressure, and hats that monitor brain activity and temperature are a few examples.

These products aren’t here yet, but with every new arrival opening up a new market and a new customer base, wearable tech will be even more widespread.

But this is only part of healthcare.

The other side of the coin would be the healthcare industry itself. Doctors, surgeons, and hospitals would have to see a large scale use of wearable tech in the treatment of their patients.

While this is happening, it’s only just begun.

Necessarily, there are laws in place to protect the sensitive health data of a patient. Laws, like HIPPA, have made the application of wearable devices a time-consuming endeavour for businesses and healthcare professionals.

On a More Positive Note

The isolation of medical information is changing. In the past, a patient’s information was sometimes difficult to see for anyone including doctors. Limiting locations where data is accessed is a measure created to keep it safe.

If a doctor is the only one wearing a device, then the information can be for his, or her, eye(s) only. The technology keeps a limited number of people viewing the sensitive data without hindering the person who genuinely needs it.

This lucrative market has businesses scrambling to make information easier for professionals to access while keeping it safe. Many are also trying to connect that vast amount of data from devices that patients are wearing. Imagine if your shirt could relay data to your doctor that saves your life?

A Revolution is Coming

It may already be here. More and more people are using these devices to live healthier, and doctors are looking for ways to streamline their processes to impact more lives.

The way our bodies interact with technology will change healthcare and it will be nothing short of a revolution.


University of Illinois at Chicago

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by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post