The Explosion of Wearable Sensors in Healthcare



Healthcare is in the midst of a transition from conventional medicine to a patient-centric, consumer-led model. Earlier, a doctor would diagnose and plan the treatment based on a fragmented medical history or medical records. However, with the advent of wearable technologies and sensors, it is possible to generate rich data sets that would enable health provider to offer more personalized health decisions.


Electronic devices that consumers can wear enhance their personal experience by collecting users' personal health and exercise data. Tracking one's health-related activities offers benefits such as personalization, early diagnosis, remote patient tracking (RPM), prescription adherence, information repositories, improved decision-making, and healthcare costs reduction.


Wearable medical biosensors track body health parameters in real-time and include enzyme-based, tissue-based, immunosensors, DNA biosensors, thermal and piezoelectric bio-sensing systems. The industry of wearable tech is expected to grow exponentially from $23 billion to $54 billion by 2023, according to GlobalData forecasts. There is a greater demand for personalized and disease-specific wearable devices due to developments in the field of AI and machine learning.


Smartwatches


One of the simplest forms of the wearable fitness tracker is the wristband equipped with sensors to track the user's physical activity and heart rate. Fitbit is one such wearable fitness smartwatches that offer a smartphone app to help users live a healthy, balanced life by tracking all-day activity, exercise, sleep, and weight. Withings provides solutions such as WiFi BodyScale (measure both weight and fat mass and upload the data to the cloud over WiFi), Withings home (video monitoring and security), and Withings Thermo (WiFi connected thermometer). Likewise, the Apple Heart Study app monitors users' heart rhythms and alerts those who are experiencing atrial fibrillation. Another device by Apple is the "Movement Disorder API" that could potentially gather new insights into Parkinson's disease.


Smart Clothing


A survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted that 10% of people would wear internet-connected garments by 2025. NadiX yoga leggings, Sensoria socks, Ambiotex smart shirts, and Supa Bras are some of the commercially available sports smart clothing. There is an increased demand for smart clothing in healthcare as well, where continuous monitoring of body activities is of utmost importance.


Sensassure develops sensors for adult diapers and strives to enable person-centered elder care. Siren Care a San Francisco-based health technology company creates Neurofabrics – first ever textile with nano-sensors embedded directly into the fabric. Their first product is Siren Diabetic Socks that help people living with diabetes prevent amputations.


Sensoria Health has developed a technology platform comprising novel textile sensors, cloud, and mobile software that enable a wide range of remote patient monitoring applications.


Smart Glasses


Thanks to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), eyewear these days are getting smarter. Google Glass is a common feature in many teaching hospitals as a surgical training and assistance tool. From first-person imaging to enhanced turn-wise directions, facial recognition, and health sense, AR is driving smart glasses' penetration into multiple areas of the internet-connected society. Epson, Magic Leap, and Medical Realities are some of the new players in the AR smart glasses market.


Biosensors


Biosensors are up and coming wearable medical devices that are radically different from wrist trackers and smartwatches. The Philips' wearable biosensor is a self-adhesive patch that allows patients to move around while collecting data on their movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. Research from Augusta University Medical Center has shown that this wearable system has the potential to enhance patients' conditions and potentially reduce the workload of employees.