The global population is aging, and that is putting increasing pressure on healthcare systems worldwide. However, perhaps nowhere is the challenge greater than in the United States, where rising costs and a patient population that is both older and sicker is combining with a growing shortage of qualified healthcare providers. Nevertheless, the situation is not entirely dire. The advent of wearable technologies is revolutionizing the way we care for our seniors.
The Rise of the Smart Hospital
Wearable health technology has been identified as the number one fitness trend of 2019. But wearable tech is about much more than step trackers and heart rate monitors. Hospitals and clinics are increasingly taking advantage of the robust and growing Internet of Things to accumulate the constant stream of data needed to optimize patient quality of care. Smart hospitals, for example, now use IoT technologies to automate patient care, supporting everything from pain management to diagnosis and treatment planning. Wearable technologies can even detect falls and monitor patient movements, protecting dementia patients from wandering off hospital grounds or away from home.
The Rise of Telemedicine
Wearable tech isn’t just about improving patient care in the hospital or clinic. Thanks to the rise of telemedicine, seniors can now remain in nearly constant contact with their healthcare team, all without leaving the comfort of their own home. Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to conduct virtual exams through secure video conferencing. Counselors can conduct therapy sessions through phone, text, or video call. Such consistent access to the patients’ healthcare team not only supports caregiver/patient relationships, but also promotes patient compliance, decreases cancellations and forgotten appointments, and enhances care providers’ ability to detect important physical, cognitive, or psychological changes in their earliest stages.
Best of all, wearable technologies provide a constant stream of physiological data to the healthcare team, monitoring everything from sleep patterns and nutrition intake to heart rhythm and blood pressure. This allows the patient’s healthcare team to identify potentially important behavioral patterns and physiological responses that may not have been detectable in the clinic or hospital. Best of all, these IoT-connected technologies can give caregivers and families the peace of mind in knowing that these monitors will provide instant alerts to any potentially life-threatening physical changes.
The Future of Caregiving
The evolution and proliferation of health tech is changing the face of healthcare. Now more than ever, clinicians and healthcare providers have to be adept in deploying AI, the IoT, and Big Data to support efficient and accurate diagnosis, develop the most effective, evidence-based treatment protocols, and ensure continuous oversight of patients’ progress.
The most significant challenge of incorporating wearable tech and Big Data, however, is in protecting the confidentiality of patient information. The fear that sensitive patient data will be compromised through malware, viruses, and other cyber threats increasingly requires healthcare teams to develop ever-higher levels of expertise in cybersecurity and responsible data collection, management, and use.
In the face of a rapidly aging patient population and a shrinking supply of qualified healthcare providers, the advent of IoT-connected wearable tech could not have come at a more auspicious time. Wearable technologies are increasing the capacity of hospitals and clinics to provide exceptional patient care, allowing healthcare teams to respond immediately to life-threatening events. Likewise, telemedicine enables patients to receive continuous, high-quality healthcare without ever leaving home. Finally, wearable monitors and remote sensors enable 24/7 monitoring of patients’ vitals, providing instant alerts to caregivers of potentially significant changes and ensuring that diagnoses and treatment protocols are expertly aligned with patients’ needs and the best evidence-based practices.