Sep 1, 2022
From counting steps to remote monitoring, how we deal with the building mountain of wearable data will determine the future of consumer acceptance.
Wearable electronic health and fitness devices are in strong demand with 26 percent of U.S. households owning one as of 2018, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). They projected over 12.5 million smartwatches would be sold that same year and in the last quarter of 2021, 533.6 million wearables were shipped worldwide. Today, people can choose from several different devices such as fitness trackers, smart rings, and smart watches.
These devices can help people make positive changes in lifestyles and improve overall health and wellness. The process of setting daily goals and capturing those successes in apps, provides incentive and motivation for improvement. The opportunity to focus on wellness and setting personal goals to help achieve daily wins changes habits and improves wellness over time.
Yet, even with the growing demand for wearables, there are barriers that prevent certain demographics from accessing wearable technology—leaving many without the opportunity to leverage this data to improve their health. We must also look at the lasting role wearables had during the COVID-19 pandemic and the best use of the deluge of data that comes with these devices.
Health Equity and Wearables
The National Institute of Health conducted a study of a thousand people who were historically underrepresented in biomedical research. This included certain racial and ethnic minority groups and those with limited access to medical care.
Many of the participants in the study had an interest in using wearable digital health devices but were not sure how they worked. The study noted the cultural nuances of the term “tracker” concerned some participants over their locations being “tracked.”
Economic disparities also impact the use of wearable devices. Around 31 percent of Americans living in households earning $75,000 or more a year say they wear a smart watch or fitness tracker on a regular basis, compared with only 12 percent of those whose annual household income falls below $30,000.
Providing access to wearable devices to underserved communities would create opportunities for enhanced wellness and disease prevention.
Shifting the Nature of Care Delivery in a Pandemic
Wearables, alongside medical-grade wearable devices, had an important role during the pandemic. They provided remote home monitoring and tracked the health of those who were not sick enough to be hospitalized yet needed to be monitored for changes indicating they were experiencing a worsening health condition.
The wearable devices measuring temperature, oxygen-saturation level, respiratory rates, cough and lung-sound monitoring were key for remote monitoring and assisted clinical teams in managing patients’ health at home during COVID-19.
Wearables provided help for stress management and mindfulness during times of isolation and quarantine by coaching consumers in activities designed to calm the mind, including meditation and deep breathing.
This all advanced remote monitoring acceptance and resulted in innovative care models for receiving healthcare from home that are now paving the future of healthcare.
While integrating the data from wearables into the EHR may not have been achievable in all situations, the vision and value of data integration from wearable devices has now become a focus for the healthcare industry.
Data Integration is Key
Substantial amounts of data are created daily in the healthcare industry, with a single patient generating almost 80 megabytes of imaging and EMR data each year. With the growth of telehealth, contact tracing, wearable medical devices and research, that number has surely jumped.
Organizations have begun to realize the value of the data being created and they continue to look at gaining efficiencies, with data integration being one of the most focused efforts. How are organizations managing this data and protecting sensitive healthcare data?
When considering the data generated by wearables, one must consider how the data becomes available and useable to generate actionable insights. Device manufacturers follow their own proprietary format that makes integration of devices into EHRs challenging.
New devices must have the ability to integrate seamlessly with external data sources, other devices and applications. As the wearable industry continues to mature, data accuracy and integration with other applications and EHRs will improve provider acceptance and utilization in patient care.
Data Security and HIPAA
Today, consumer wearable companies are not required to follow HIPAA requirements for governing how patient data is secured and shared among medical systems. For medical devices, strong regulatory oversight guarantees the data’s quality and validity.
Data from smartwatches and health and fitness trackers does not usually have the same oversight. As the wearable device market continue to grow, data security will become an important topic for thought leadership.
Focusing on the Future
As more consumers develop an interest in wearables to improve health or prevent disease progression, questions surrounding the protection of their healthcare data and the validity of the results become more important. How can my doctor see the data from my smartwatch, protect and secure my data and use it to help improve the care delivery process?
As new wearable devices hit the market, device integration will figure prominently into consumer acceptance. Integration with external data sources, devices, and applications will be the rule instead of the exception.
For example, many diabetes management solutions fail to address the full scope of disease management. Emids worked with our client to develop a diabetes coaching tool that is a cloud-based solution that collects data from a variety of connected devices to give patients and caregivers a holistic look at factors that affect disease outcomes.
At Emids, we drive innovative client engagement opportunities with data intelligence, healthcare analytics and device integration tools designed to enhance the patient-provider relationship – keeping the consumer at the center of care.