Wearable Technology & Healthcare

Wearable technology is about to boom.  With the coming of wearable products such as Google Glass, Google Contact Lens, and Apple Watch, the decade-old trend of a healthier life and body can be amped up to with both instant and constant awareness of one’s health.

The wearable industry is on the cusp of a boom.

It is predicted to be a $30 billion dollar industry by 2018  with expected annual sales of 100 million devices by 2016.   This tells us that the general population is ready for the advanced technology to track our health and health information. And even better yet, we don’t even have to manually enter the information – it is collected with minimal effort on the part of the individual.

What do we do with all that data that is being collected by these fantastical devices?

We know that the focus in the general healthcare setting is on electronic medical records (EMRs). This is especially true with the onset of Meaningful Use and ICD-10 government initiatives. Our healthcare providers are absorbed, rightfully so, on the implementation and use of the EMR. Additionally, we have to ask, are those EMRs ready to receive data from these wearable devices? At this point in time, the reports from the industry tell us “No.”

Where will the data from wearable technology go, and what will it be used for?

Dr. Michael Blum from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, stated:“It’s kind of a little naïve to think that a company that’s developing new sensor technology [is] also going to have the wherewithal to develop analytics for it,” Blum said. “And whether they’re going to have the scientific insights and background to know what’s relevant and then figure out what should get pushed to the clinician.”

Though EMRs have historically been designed to collect viable data, we are still in a stage where the analytics and reporting of the data are in a very early stage and primarily targeted to meet Meaningful Use and quality reporting requirements.

So if the EMRs aren’t processing the data who will be? In a recent article, Fred O’Connor reports that it will be individuals or organizations working with independent companies or building their own applications to process data.

This leads us back to the never-answered question of whose data it is. If the data is stored in a database that independent analytic applications are processing, we must answer a few questions.

  1. Since a person is contributing their health data to be used for reporting, should they be compensated?
  2. Should their data be sold to the highest bidder?
  3. How protected is that data?

We don’t know the answers to these questions, but we should figure this out. After all, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations have to be met.

Uses of Wearable Technology Data Vary

One use appeals to me and my passion for public health. With this data, we can track community health and enable populations to be more proactive about their health. We can glean information on behaviors and their impact on disease states. Medication use is a potential, and already planned, for tracking of the data.  Just imagine the impact to the pharmaceutical companies in having information on the medication use and clinical results. That cholesterol medication you’re taking and those annual cholesterol tests will provide the pharmaceutical company data to determine if their medications are effective.

We are a world of technology and a culture of people that are managing their health. With that, we can take in data and process it to create varying reports for an equal number of varying purposes. But we have to remember that the data is personal. However, we might not be able to free share data for purposes that patients don’t specifically approve of. Time will tell on the adoption, sharing and processing but in the meantime go ahead and enjoy those Google Glasses!

Want to learn more about wearable technology and how it can strengthen patient and provider communication? Reach out to us today.