Wearables in Healthcare: Better All The Time

Companies continue to develop new features for wearables that blur the line between consumer products and medical devices, a trend that Deloitte predicts will be a dominant theme in 2022.

A new report from the consulting firm predicts that more healthcare improvements are on the horizon for wearables, which might increase their effectiveness in the clinical setting as early as next year.

  • Smartwatches that measure blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) will likely become more common, as low SpO2 is a potentially life-threatening symptom that’s hard to detect unassisted.
  • Continuous blood pressure monitoring could improve due to advances in photoplethysmography (PPG), Raman spectroscopy, and infrared spectrophotometers.
  • Over 10% of smartwatch owners are now using them to detect COVID-19 symptoms, with 15% of smartwatch owners purchasing them after the onset of the pandemic.

Although Deloitte projects total wearables shipments to climb from 320M units in 2022 to 440 units in 2024, it also notes several headwinds that could slow adoption.

  • Interoperability is cited as a top priority for provider adoption of new technologies, yet only 10% have integrated data from wearables into their EHR.
  • Data privacy remains a concern for 40% of smartwatch owners, a figure that rises to 60% among those who use smartwatches exclusively to track their health.
  • Increased regulatory scrutiny is anticipated as smartwatch outputs are integrated into EHRs, with most current devices avoiding HIPAA by collecting data for personal use.

Deloitte does not view these obstacles as insurmountable, and believes that simultaneous advances in sensors, semiconductors, and AI will lead to further innovation. Both big tech and the medical community see a bright future for wearables, and their continued investment could make it “a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Unlocking Value With Digital Patient Monitoring

New research from Deloitte and Harvard CBE highlights the value of digital patient monitoring, which provides benefits not only to patients, but also to healthcare systems, hospitals, and governments.

Digital health monitoring covers a wide class of technologies that enable patient follow-ups outside of conventional care settings, including remote care platforms, mHealth apps, and wearable devices.

A whitepaper of the findings released through MSD Connect details the value as it relates to each stakeholder group:

Patients

  • Increased level of health information exchange and patient engagement
  • Improved medication compliance and disease management
  • Improved health outcomes, safety, and quality of care

Healthcare Systems

  • Optimization of HCPs workflow due to reduced no-shows and administrative burden
  • Improved informed decision-making strengthened by longitudinal patient data
  • More personalized care delivery based on real-world data and evidence

Hospitals

  • Reduced hospital (re)admissions, follow-up visits, and length of stay
  • Improved efficiency leading to increased hospital capacity and reduced costs
  • Diminished risk of employee burn-out

Governments

  • Increased value of healthcare services offered through better budgeting
  • Improved population health by better allocation of health resources
  • Improved accessibility and equity of care

The Takeaway

The thread connecting the benefits across all stakeholder groups is clear: better data leads to better outcomes. Digital patient monitoring gives all parties a clearer view of individual healthcare journeys, which in turn leads to more efficient systems built on top of this data and improved health for the entire population.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team