HealthTech
30 May 2019

The Current State of Wearable Medical Devices and the Advantages They Bring

Written by Olivia Schreiber

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It was not long ago when the medical science community focused primarily on finding cures for disease. Within the last 50 years, scientists and researchers have made incredible progress in many areas, including cancer, bacterial infections, and neurodegenerative disorders. While there is still much work to be done, we can proudly say that medical science has and continues to make our lives better, healthier, and happier. 

The medical science community is still dedicated to finding cures for a number of common diseases and disorders, but now it has shifted some of its focus on how to prevent disease.

Not all illnesses can be prevented, but there are a number that can be. Take diabetes, a metabolic disorder that is marked by elevated sugar in the bloodstream. Undetected diabetes can lead to a number of problems, ranging from poor circulation of blood in the body, to lower leg amputation and death. If diabetes is caught, it can be managed by medication and these frightening outcomes need not be a reality. 

Read below to learn more about what medical science and technology is, how to distinguish a medical device from a fitness device, and why wearable tech is the future of disease prevention and better health and wellbeing.

Health Monitoring Devices

When the body is ill, it does a great job of emitting signals to let us know that something has gone wrong. We now have the tools to measure temperature, an irregular pulse, or even elevated blood glucose. Armed with this information, health monitoring devices have allowed physicians and patients alike to peer into the body and discover abnormalities before they become fatal issues. 

For those who have experienced unexplained fainting, palpitations, or an irregular heartbeat, heart monitors are now available to help physicians diagnose heart abnormalities and prescribe appropriate treatments. And with the advent of simple glucometers and continuous glucose monitoring systems, diabetes and frightening hypoglycemic episodes have become much more manageable. 

Medical Versus Fitness Devices

It is important to understand the distinction between medical monitoring devices and fitness devices. Certain technologies that can be worn during exercise to measure total distance walked can often measure other biosignals like heart rate or blood pressure. 

Be wary: fitness devices can give you useful information, but they don’t always give you dependable information.

Another problem with fitness devices is  they may be revealing data about you and your location. Medical devices are made to be compliant with HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law gives you rights over your health information and imposes limits on who can look at and receive your health information. 

Medical device manufacturers must follow strict guidelines and utilize proper encryption tools to ensure that any PHI, or personal health information, does not end up in the wrong hands. In most cases, fitness devices are not classified as medical devices and consequently do not require the same level of data protection.

The Future is Wearable Tech

We are at the beginning of the wearable technology era, which makes it an exciting time to be working in the medical science and technology space. Wearable devices are just that—wearable. Soon enough, people living with illness will be able to monitor their vital signs, detect problems before they happen, and manage their health conditions using nothing but small devices and smartphones. 

Most of the core technology that will make wearables a reality is still under development, but we don’t have to look too far to see how quickly technology advances. Take the computer. The initial few years of home computing—clunky monitors, modems, and mini memories—ushered in a tech revolution. Yet in just two decades, we now have computers 100 times as powerful as the original home computers that can sit comfortably within the confines of a pocket. We can expect the same speedy development in wearable technology over the next five to ten years. 

Why wearables? According to a PwC report published in December 2018, it’s pretty simple: people want to live longer and maintain healthier lifestyle habits in a way that won’t hold them down. Patient-generated data, whether it be from a glucose monitoring watch, a bracelet that can detect food allergens, or smart footwear technology to collect gait and balance data, can be used to supplement clinical data where there can be missing gaps. 

Rather than hope for the best in between physician visits, the data collected from these devices provide real-time health information. For example, a person living with diabetes who wears a wearable device, whether it be for blood glucose or foot temperature monitoring (that’s what Bonbouton does!) can see how their blood glucose levels or foot health status over several weeks, which can contribute to a more productive conversation with a physician in the office. 

It is already apparent that medical monitoring will be an important part of wearable tech. People are busy, and symptoms that serve as harbingers of bad times ahead often go unnoticed and unreported. Wearables can be there when our own safeguards fail us. Armed with accurate and informative real-time data, people wearing wearables can seek medical attention when needed, avoid expensive medical costs, and liver happier, freer lives. 

 

This is a guest post by Olivia Schreiber, VP of Communications at Bonbouton.

Bonbouton is a cutting-edge health and technology company that ensures people stay healthy and puts the power back into their hands (and feet). Its first product, a smart insole system, detects early signs of foot ulcers before they form so people living with diabetes can access preventative healthcare and confidently manage their health. The Bonbouton team is made up of scientists, strategists, and designers, who are all dedicated to harnessing science to create important tools that advance people’s wellbeing. 

 

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