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We’re facing a shortfall of general practice doctors and a growth in expenses as “baby boomers” head into their retirement years and more people become insured via the Affordable Care Act. Wearable technology may be able to alleviate a few of the pain points in the healthcare industry and it is changing the face of healthcare.

So, what is wearable technology? It is exactly what it sounds like—a small device that you wear in order to monitor different functions of your body.  As WebMD has taught us, the body is complex and one symptom can mean almost anything.  Different companies have created different types of devices: a device to monitor diabetes, one to monitor prescription pill taking, and one for general health. But are these devices practical and can they really help us get healthier?

Diabetes Monitoring

Diabetes monitoring

Depending on the type of treatment, medical adherence to treatments for Type 2 diabetes can be as low as 38%[1]. The reason is that the treatments are somewhat invasive, requiring the patient to keep a close watch on their glucose levels. Medical costs for these patients are on average twice as much as patients who follow the treatment regimen. The Bionic Pancreas is a small, wearable device that provides one solution to this problem. The device is in the form of a wearable patch and it checks your glucose level every five minutes to make a determination of whether you need an insulin dose or not. Google, Samsung, and Apple have also announced their own solutions to this problem as well, with devices ranging from watches to contact lenses, which give you information regarding where your glucose level is at.

Prescription Drug Management

Prescription Drug Management

About 50% of Americans who take prescription drugs don’t take them as prescribed. This results in costs over $100 billion a year for extra hospitalizations [2]. Proteus is a digital feedback system that has come up with its own solution to this costly problem, taking a three device approach. The patient wears a patch that is capable of transmitting the data to smartphones, and the medication contains a small digestible sensor that communicates with the patch. With that setup, it’s able to capture not only when the patient takes medication, but what their health state was like at the time. Once that’s done, the patient can decide to send the information to their primary care physician. Instead of scheduling an appointment to monitor their patient’s status, physicians can make decisions at a glance of the data.

General Health Monitoring

   General Health Monitoring image02

Sensible Baby is a sensor system that is looking to take the guess work out of looking after your baby. New and nervous parents have no shortage of visits to their pediatrician with questions, so why not eliminate the simplest of worries? Sensible Baby monitors the most straight-forward aspects of the baby: temperature, movement, and orientation. This sensor goes on the shirt, so there’s no discomfort to the child. You can check the status of the sensor from any smartphone and will get alerted if it deviates from the norm.

Are these technologies changing the face of healthcare?They will be—but not yet. Most of these devices are still years away from general adoption. Since they all are used to some extent to diagnose medical conditions it’s very likely they’ll be classified as a “medical device,” which means they would need to get FDA approval before they could be marketed[3].  The big outstanding question for this area of wearable technology is, what can be done with the data? Capturing data is one thing, but without a good diagnostic system the information is only useful to someone trained in the medical field. The company that develops a system that can interpret the data from the wearable devices will be the real winner in this technology race.

[1] " > Improving Adherence in the Treatment ..." 2010. <>

[2] "Improving Patient Medication Adherence - NEHI." 2011. 24 Jul. 2014 <>

[3] "Should You Trust Health Apps on Your Phone? - LiveScience." 2014. 29 Jul. 2014 <>