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Best Wearable Technology in Healthcare
Wearable technology has transformed the healthcare industry in recent years. Devices like smartwatches, fitness trackers, and biosensors allow patients and doctors to monitor health data in real-time. This leads to more preventative care and personalized treatment plans. In this article, we’ll explore some of the top wearable tech making a difference in healthcare.
Fitness Trackers for Health Monitoring
Fitness trackers are among the most common wearable devices today. Leading brands like Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple Watch offer affordable consumer models. These devices track key health metrics including steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. Patients and physicians use the data to gain insights on activity levels, diet, and overall wellbeing.
Fitness trackers encourage users to stay active and make healthy lifestyle choices. Doctors can look at the data collected to spot potential health issues. For instance, inconsistent sleep patterns or spikes in resting heart rate may indicate underlying conditions. Accurate activity monitoring also aids weight loss goals and fitness training.
Here are some of the best fitness trackers in healthcare:
Fitbit Charge 5 – The Charge 5 stands out with its bright AMOLED display and 6-day battery life. It has advanced sensors to track heart health, sleep apnea, skin temperature, and other metrics. Expect excellent app integration and Fitbit Premium coaching.
Apple Watch Series 8 – This smartwatch needs little introduction. It offers world-class health tracking in a polished package. Notable features include ECG, blood oxygen monitoring, fall detection, and Cycle tracking for women’s health. Seamless syncing with iPhone makes it a top pick for iOS users.
Garmin Vivosmart 5 – Garmin’s affordable Vivosmart 5 packs helpful wellness tools. It has a pulse ox sensor, all-day stress tracking, and advanced sleep monitoring. The stylish, swim-proof design has a bright display with touch controls.
Oura Ring Gen3 – For a discreet option, consider the Oura Ring. It distills key health metrics down to a single band. The ring measures heart rate, blood oxygen, activity, and sleep automatically. Temperature sensors even detect early signs of illness. Just remember that it requires charging every 4-7 days.
Using fitness trackers empowers patients to monitor vitals in real-time. Data integration aids preventative care and chronic illness management.
Smartwatches for Detecting Falls and Arrhythmias
Smartwatches go beyond activity tracking with advanced health monitoring. Two key features are detecting falls and irregular heart rhythms. This provides safety and heart health insight to the wearer.
Fall Detection with Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch
Falling poses a serious risk, especially for elderly patients. A hard tumble can cause severe injuries or be impossible to recover from alone. Smartwatches with fall detection provide peace of mind that help will arrive if needed.
The Apple Watch Series 8 uses motion sensors, barometer, GPS, and microphone to identify falls. Users can choose who to contact if a fall is detected during selected hours. It will automatically message designated emergency contacts and give the option to call emergency services if the wearer is unresponsive.
Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro has a similar feature called Fall Detection. When enabled, it can sense falls and send an SOS notification to chosen contacts. The watch even streams audio from its microphone and GPS location to assist responders.
Fall detection gives elderly patients confidence when living independently. Families also appreciate the extra security for aging loved ones.
ECG Monitoring for Atrial Fibrillation
Another innovation is using smartwatches to screen for atrial fibrillation (Afib). This is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. Left untreated, Afib significantly raises risks of stroke, heart failure, and other complications.
The Apple Watch Series 8, Samsung Galaxy Watch5, and newer Fitbit models have built-in ECG apps. Users simply touch electrocardiogram sensors on the watch face to take a 30-second ECG reading. If signs of Afib are detected, the readings can be exported as a PDF and shared with doctors.
Patients get affordable, immediate heart rhythm screening at home between doctor visits. Cardiac events can be caught early and monitored closely. However, anyone experiencing heart palpitations or discomfort should still seek medical care right away.
Smartwatches provide revolutionary health insight through features like fall and Afib detection. Patients gain safety and heart health awareness on their wrist 24/7.
Hearable Devices for Digital Health
Hearables are smart earbuds and hearing aids that capture biometric data. Leaders in this market include Bose, Olive Union, and Nuheara. Their devices analyze heart rate, blood oxygen, brain activity, body temperature, and more based on sensor data.
Users get a detailed “listening experience” for the body. Digital hearables connect wirelessly to smartphones to track vitals and log health history through companion apps. Some brands like Nuheara even transform the earbuds into customizable hearing aids.
Here are some top health-focused hearable brands on the market:
Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids – These FDA-approved smart hearing aids by audio giant Bose deliver outstanding sound quality and connectivity. The SoundControl app lets users adjust settings, monitor usage, and share data with hearing professionals.
Olive Pro – Olive Union’s smart earbuds provide extensive health tracking, including heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels, breathing rate, movement, and body temperature. The companion app makes it easy to monitor trends.
Nuheara IQbuds2 MAX – With customizable noise cancellation and amplification, these “buds act as advanced hearing aids. The EarID feature tunes the soundscape based on the user’s personalized hearing profile.
Amazon Halo View – This fitness tracker by Amazon packs an optical heart rate sensor, activity tracking, and blood oxygen monitoring. The comfortable earbud design makes sleep tracking effortless.
Hearables allow patients to tap into biometrics hands-free. Doctors can also prescribe smart hearing aids with patient monitoring features. This emerging wearable category will continue innovating digital healthcare.
Continuous Glucose Monitors for Diabetes Management
Wearable continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) revolutionized type 1 diabetes management. Traditional fingerstick meters only provide blood sugar data at single points in time. CGMs give dynamic, 24/7 glucose readings via a skin sensor. Brands like Dexcom and Abbott (FreeStyle Libre) make the leading options.
CGM sensors test glucose levels every few minutes, displaying current readings and trends on paired receivers or apps. Alerts notify users if levels spike or drop, allowing rapid response to avoid dangerous high and low blood sugar. This data improves eating, exercise, and insulin dosing decisions.
Here are some top-level CGMs aiding diabetes care:
Dexcom G7 – Dexcom’s latest G7 model boasts a low-profile patch design 60% smaller than previous generations. The 14-day wear time, acetaminophen blocking, and real-time data sharing add convenience.
FreeStyle Libre 3 – Abbott’s sensor is the first to offer fully disposable, 14-day continuous glucose monitoring with optional real-time alarms. The slim sensor has high accuracy and seamless app connectivity.
Dexcom G6 – This previous generation Dexcom monitor features 10-day wear and an 8-hour sensor warmup. The touchscreen receiver and apps enable remote monitoring by caregivers and doctors.
Medtronic Guardian Link 3 – This pediatric-focused CGM lasts up to 7 days with handy detachable transmitter. It calibrates automatically using readings from companion glucose meters.
CGMs give diabetics granular insights to better manage their condition daily. The data helps patients stay in range through proactive adjustments while minimizing painful finger pricks.
Wearable Biosensors for Vital Sign Monitoring
Wearable biosensors represent the next wave of healthcare technology. Small flexible patches applied to the skin 24/7 can track everything from heart rhythms to blood biomarkers. Two frontrunners in the field are Abbott’s Lingo and Vivalink’s Eviera platforms.
Lingo Wearable Biosensor for Ambulatory Monitoring
Abbott’s Lingo is a rechargeable, stick-on biosensor about the size of a quarter. Currently under FDA review, this device aims to revolutionize ambulatory monitoring beyond the clinic.
Lingo tracks vital signs like heart rate, respiration, and skin temperature continuously for up to 14 days. The sensor shares data wirelessly with caregivers to flag arrhythmias, infections, and other issues between doctor visits. This gives far greater visibility over health than periodic ECGs or labs.
By catching emerging problems early, biosensors like Lingo could prevent countless ER visits and hospitalizations. They provide care teams with unprecedented health insight outside clinical settings.
Vivalink Biometric Patch Tracks Medication Effects
Vivalink offers several wearable biosensor platforms to healthcare providers. Their Eviera Patch tracks heart activity, skin temperature, body position, fall detection, and more with an impressive 30-day battery life.
This sensor reveals unique insights by logging vitals alongside medication doses or other therapies. Doctors gain data to optimize and personalize treatment plans based on each patient’s measured biometrics and responses. Remote patient monitoring boosts outcomes when clinicians can adjust care protocols in near real-time.
Wearable biosensors enable continuous health data for fast, informed care decisions. Lingo and Vivalink exemplify the potential of this technology to transform mobile health monitoring.
Smart Clothing Monitors Health Metrics 24/7
Smart clothing represents the ultimate wearable technology for unobtrusive health tracking. Companies like Hexoskin, Myant, and Sensoria embed ECG sensors, respiration monitors, and movement trackers directly into the fabric of shirts and other garments.
As patients go about their day, the clothes log comprehensive biometrics around the clock. The machine washable designs work day or night for limitless monitoring at home or on the move.
Here are some of the top health-tracking smart clothing options available:
Hexoskin Smart Shirts – These machine washable smart shirts by Canadian company Hexoskin capture ECG, heart and breathing rates, sleep patterns, steps, and activity intensity. The data integrates with cardiac rehab programs.
Myant Pireta Sports Bra and Underwear – Pireta combines brassier, heart rate monitor, and ECG in one high-tech sports bra. Paired briefs also track pelvic health metrics including cycles, ovulation, and leaks.
Sensoria Fitness Socks and Shirts – Sensoria’s smart socks track running metrics and foot landing patterns to prevent injury. Their clothing line also includes heart rate monitoring tees and tanks.
Gymi Smart Leggings – This brand makes affordable, comfortable leggings with built-in movement trackers. They connect to a companion app to count reps, analyze form, and track workouts.
From shirts to socks, smart clothing enables all-day health insight. Patients and doctors can access unparalleled data to inform preventative care and chronic disease management.
Robotic Exoskeletons for Mobility Assistance
Robotic exoskeletons transform lives by restoring mobility for the disabled and elderly. These futuristic devices are worn over the body to stabilize and power movement. Examples include leg exoskeletons that enable people with lower body paralysis to walk again.
Major players like ReWalk Robotics, Ekso Bionics, and CYBERDYNE build medical exoskeletons. While costs are currently high, these technologies could become as common as wheelchairs for mobility assistance.
Here are a few leading exoskeleton models:
ReWalk Personal 6.0 – ReWalk’s exoskeleton available in the U.S. and Europe enables walking by people with spinal cord injuries. It provides powered hip and knee motion and uses onboard computers and motion sensors to maintain balance and support.
EksoGT – This intuitive exoskeleton by Ekso Bionics can be used for gait rehabilitation or personal use. It provides the ability to stand and walk again to those with lower extremity paralysis or weakness.
HAL Robot Suit – CYBERDYNE’s HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) exoskeleton is commercially available in Asia. It detects faint nerve signals to synchronize leg movement intentions with motorized support. Stroke recovery patients saw improved mobility during therapy trials.
Exoskeletons can profoundly transform care for the disabled. As the technology progresses and costs hopefully decline, robotic mobility aids could become the future of rehab and home medical equipment.
Augmented Reality for Healthcare Training
Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital content onto real-world settings. Healthcare leverages AR headsets for everything from physician training to patient education. Surgeons use AR when preparing for complex procedures. Virtual anatomy models and overlays transform dry textbook material into immersive learning.
AR surgical simulation boosts trainee proficiency by allowing repetitive practice of high-risk techniques. Doctors can enhance live surgery with overlays showing subdermal anatomy or critical health data on patients. During care of actual patients, AR enables doctors to access medical records, radiologic images, and reference materials without looking away.
Consumer AR apps are also emerging to educate patients about health conditions in relatable ways. Visual disease models help patients grasp risks and anatomy. Gamified experiences make physical therapy exercises more engaging. AR transforms traditional health learning on all fronts.
Here are some top AR companies changing provider training and patient care:
Osso VR – This immersive surgical training simulator uses VR and AR to mimic procedures ranging from arthroscopy to spinal fusion. The realistic models develop surgical skill and muscle memory.
EchoPixel – Their life-sized AR anatomy models help explain diagnoses and demonstrate procedures to patients. Clinicians also use the digital overlays to prepare for complex surgeries.
SWORD Health – This PT app prescribes motion-tracking exercise programs with real-time AR feedback to ensure proper form during rehab. Gamification boosts patient engagement.
AccuVein – Patients benefit from less invasive vein illumination using AR projection during blood draws, IV insertions, and infusions. This reduces complications and discomfort.
AR makes health learning more interactive, memorable, and accessible. Its potential to supplement care is only beginning as the technology evolves.
Wearable innovations continue transforming healthcare by enabling continuous patient monitoring beyond the clinic. Devices like fitness trackers, smartwatches, hearables, biosensors, glucose monitors, exoskeletons, and smart clothing give invaluable health insights for providers and wearers.
This technology allows earlier illness detection, more preventative care, and personalized treatment adjustments. Patients take an active role managing chronic diseases. Providers minimize hospital visits through proactive care enabled by wearable data.
As comfort and capabilities improve, adoption will skyrocket. Expect exciting medical advances as healthcare embraces these wearable platforms. Their ability to log biometrics 24/7 delivers health awareness once unimaginable. For both patients and doctors, that insight promises to save countless lives in the coming years.
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What are the benefits of wearable tech in healthcare?
Wearable technology provides continuous, real-time health data to patients and providers. This enables better preventative care, chronic disease management, early illness detection, personalized treatment adjustments, mobility assistance, and more. Wearables allow care teams to monitor patients closely outside clinical settings.
Do doctors recommend fitness trackers?
Many doctors encourage using fitness trackers and smartwatches, especially for high-risk patients. The data provides insight on heart health, activity levels, sleep patterns, and overall wellness between appointments. Shared tracker data aids diagnosis of emerging conditions and helps optimize treatment plans.
Can smartwatches detect health issues?
Yes, the latest smartwatches like Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch can screen for AFib through ECG apps. Their fall detection feature also alerts emergency contacts if a dangerous tumble occurs. However, wearable data requires clinical correlation and should not replace medical evaluation.
Are exoskeletons covered by insurance?
Currently most insurers consider exoskeletons experimental and do not cover them. However, some plans may be approved on a case by case basis after a physician’s prescription. As research continues demonstrating their benefits, insurance coverage is likely to expand for appropriate patients. Out-of-pocket costs typically range from $80,000-$150,000.
Can AR improve patient education?
Yes, augmented reality is a powerful tool for patient education. AR 3D models help patients visualize diseases and anatomy in relatable ways. AR can also demonstrate how medications work in the body. Gamified AR experiences make rehab exercises more engaging and easier to learn properly.
How do biosensors monitor health?
Biosensors like the Vivalink and Abbott patches use skin-contact electrodes and microchips. These sensors read electrical signals from the heart, muscles, and nerves while tracking metrics like temperature and motion. This data feeds to clinicians through wireless transmission. Doctors analyze the analytics to optimize care.
What vital signs can smart clothing track?
Smart fabrics embedded with flexible sensors can monitor heart rate, heart rhythm, breathing rate, skin temperature, sleep cycles, steps, calories burned, movement intensity, form/posture, and more. Shirts, socks, pants, bras, and other garments now available capture health data 24/7 through contact with the wearer’s skin.
Are fitness trackers accurate?
Research suggests popular fitness trackers accurately measure steps taken, distance covered, and sleep cycles. However, their heart rate tracking is generally less reliable than clinical wearables. Anyone experiencing cardiac symptoms should talk to their doctor rather than relying solely on consumer tracker data.