During the last three years, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend of wearable technologies has boomed. Coupled with a decline in the use of healthcare services, the global population is leaning more heavily toward wearables and telemedicine. While there have been many trends throughout the pandemic that have ebbed and flowed, wearable technologies are a consistent and growing trend that is here to stay for both consumers and healthcare providers. By the end of 2023, estimates are that one billion wearable devices will be in use globally.
How Healthcare Providers Incorporate Wearable Technologies
In Stericycle’s 2022 Healthcare Workplace Safety Trend Report (HWSTR), which solicited feedback from healthcare providers (HCPs) and administrators in the United States, those surveyed said they use the following devices: glucose measuring devices (71% of HCPs and 63% of healthcare administrators), smart health watches (64% of HCPs and 62% of healthcare administrators), and wearable blood pressure monitors (59% of HCPs and 58% of healthcare administrators).
While consumers can use wearables to monitor their health, many technologies, such as wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors, allow information to be transmitted to care providers to use as they design their patient treatment plans.
Popular Health Monitoring Devices
Wearable technology can be an asset in providing effective healthcare. Some examples of wearable technologies include:
- Fitness trackers. These devices can measure heart rate and general physical activity.
- Smart health watches. Like fitness trackers, smart health watches can monitor and track various health stats, while also connecting to smart devices, allowing for increased tracking capabilities. By 2024, estimates are that 50 million people in the U.S. will use smartwatches.
- ECG monitors. Wearable ECG monitors can measure electrocardiograms (ECG), track heart rhythm and rate, and monitor other vitals.
- Blood pressure monitors. These devices can help patients monitor vitals, calories, and physical activity, without needing the in-person supervision of a healthcare professional.
- Wearable biosensors. Portable sensors include gloves, clothing, bandages, and implants. These devices create two-way feedback between the user and their doctor, enabling continuous and noninvasive disease diagnosis and health monitoring from physical motion and biofluids.
Incorporating Wearable Technologies into a Healthcare Plan
With the increase in popularity of wearable technologies in healthcare, it is important to look at the potential positives and negatives they have on healthcare providers, patients, and the community.
Pros of Wearable Technology
- Wearable technologies are a hands-free way to remotely monitor daily health.
- They can track personal habits and provide information to both patients and doctors.
- Some wearable devices can connect to smart devices, allowing easy tracking.
- The HCPs and administrators surveyed in Stericycle’s report agree that these devices provide effective care to patients (86% and 87%) and that smart personal protective equipment can keep HCPs safer (76% and 88%) and patients safer (75% and 81%).
Cons of Wearable Technology
- Some devices may feel unintuitive or complicated to use.
- Devices, depending on the sophistication and tracking capabilities, may be expensive.
- Recharging or replacing batteries can be an inconvenience.
- Wearable technologies may be seen as an invasion of privacy.
- Some devices may lack accuracy and capabilities compared to in-patient monitoring devices. (Of the HCPs and administrators surveyed in Stericycle’s HWSTR, 73% of HCPs and 67% of administrators questioned the quality and accuracy of wearable devices.)
Proper Disposal for Devices
Of the HCPs and administrators surveyed in the HWSTR, 62% and 59%, respectively, expressed concern over the safety of disposing of wearable technologies. As these devices become more widely used, it is important to think about the impact on the environment. These devices can be destroyed via solid-state destruction, which uses crushing, shredding, or disintegrating to destroy memory on the device’s data chip. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shares ways to then safely recycle or discard electronics.
Download our infographic to learn more about what healthcare providers and administrators said in the HWSTR about wearable technologies and their ability to provide care.