One of the latest trends in health and fitness relates to wearable technology – fitness devices, wristbands, and other tools that are worn continuously, providing feedback to everyday people about their habits. These devices monitor heart rate, sleep patterns, calories consumed, calories burned and more.
In some cases, this data is uploaded to a centralized location, where it is compared to the data collected by other users, and stored to create an informal “health history” of sorts. But, then what? What happens next? Is there a possibility for it to do more?
Before diving in further, we want to make it sure that we in no way believe that wireless monitoring through wearable fitness tools replace doctor’s visits or medical advice in any way shape or form. However, there may be some exciting possibilities on the horizon!
From a medical perspective
It’s a common scenario. A patient enters a doctor’s office complaining of symptoms that have been happening sporadically for some time. Sometimes these symptoms are troubling enough to warrant serious concern.
But then, during the exam, everything is fine. The physician may schedule additional testing, but even that testing could be hit or miss. The physician may send the patient home to record more information, and to come back in a few weeks. Or, the condition may be chalked up to a “mystery,” where the patient is told to return if it happens again. Based on this pattern, certain conditions may take months or even years to elicit a concrete diagnosis that leads to a plan for treatment.
Some companies are taking action
Cochlear is one company looking to change the current model, to use the data available to them in a way that is beneficial for practitioners, patients and the company itself.
The manufacturer of Cochlear Implants, which radicalized the way certain hearing impairments were treated, giving patients that never would have had the opportunity to hear a few decades ago the opportunity to do so, realized a lot of unused data was available.
The situation was problematic. When a problem arose with one of the patients, it often took a few trips to a medical facility, along with calls to the company itself to make adjustments on an individual level to remedy whatever was malfunctioning. During all of this, massive amounts of user data were collected and left unused – data collected by clinics and providers, and by the company itself.
By making a few changes, Cochlear has changed the way that data is used, allowing them to analyze and monitor situations remotely, in a way that was impossible in the past. The cost savings potential is great, as is the increase in patient satisfaction.
What about other wireless devices?
This brings us back to the question at hand. What about other wearables and devices that individual users monitor with on a round-the-clock basis? What’s the potential there? Is wireless monitoring technology something that could change the face of data in the future?
Wouldn’t it be great if the information users collect each day could be compiled and used to track widespread trends, to alert physicians of potential troubles and to cut healthcare costs by removing the need for extensive testing to try to catch a medical situation as it’s taking place, rather than recording one that has already happened?
We don’t have a definite answer, except to say that the data that’s being collected could be used for more than it is currently. Data – as we repeat time and time again – is powerful, but only when harnessed correctly.
We believe that there is great potential in wireless, wearable technology that could do big things for the healthcare industry; that unused data may be the solution for many conditions that seem to be mysteries to the medical field.