Wearable technology has been a part of modern life for a long time now. As mobile devices exploded in popularity in the last two decades, there was an increasing demand for technology that could be worn rather than carried. This has not slowed in the least, with the wearable technology industry estimated at $50 billion in 2019. Naturally, this was embraced by the medical world as it offered a way for medical data to be collected in real-time and with increased accuracy. It soon became a lifestyle trend, with products such as Fitbit becoming household names for those wishing to manage their lifestyle.
2020 has seen the medical world be kept on its toes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As countries are attempting to re-open their economies, this might not change very much unless a vaccine is discovered. In the future, the outbreak is expected to have a significant impact on all aspects of life, including wearable health technology. This is besides the fact that the wearable fitness technology industry was already predicted to grow to $62.126 million by 2023. Moving forward, we can expect to see the following new trends:
- Bio-patches and symptom trackers: When COVID-19 first broke out, there was a lot of confusion surrounding how exactly a person would know if they had it. While many medical associations around the world released guidelines stating the likely symptoms associated with COVID-19, people still went into a panic. Thermometers were sold out across the Internet and many were obsessively checking their temperatures and trying to observe if they displayed any symptoms. However, moving forward without a vaccine, wearable to health technology can remove the need for constant symptom checking. Bio-patches, for example, can be attached to the body and can track temperature changes in real-time. Besides this, certain wearable such as the Oura ring developed by researchers helps to track certain symptoms such as fever, coughing, and breathing difficulties with over 90% accuracy. As the economy reopens across the world, it is likely that these sorts of patches, rings, and other wearables will dominate the market as people will be able to know in real-time if they are developing any symptoms. This will do wonders for isolation and tracking of possible outbreaks. Also, it should be noted that even with those who survived the virus, there have been reports of decreased lung capacity and other harmful side effects. The use of bio-patches can report the vital signs of those who survive the virus in order to detect any possible future health issues due to the infection. Considering the fact that not a lot is known about the long-term effects of COVID-19, we can expect to see this sort of innovation increase in the next decade as the long-term effects finally unravel themselves.
- Medical smartwatches: Medical smartwatches and other wearables have already been popular such as a Fitbit which tracks metrics like heart rate, steps taken and so on. These have seen a steady increase in purchase since the outbreak began and this will likely continue well into the future. However, there will likely be more emphasis on the tracking of the users’ movement. Considering the fact that a single individual can infect dozens, a population in which the majority of people have such smartwatches means that their location over days and months can be tracked and those who have come in contact with infected persons can be isolated immediately. This also applies to other metrics such as heart rates which are shown to change pattern days before fevers begin and these are major symptoms of COVID-19.
- Baby and child wearables: One of the biggest concerns as economies reopen is the reopening of schools. While there is some faith that older people will be able to practice proper social distancing, environments such as schools with young children are not as easily controlled. This is why the trend of baby and child wearables will also likely become popular. With the use of wearables, the movements of children can be properly monitored and as such, any outbreak in schools can be easily contained should vital signs be reported early enough. Young children and babies are also particularly at risk of the virus and this sort of innovation for newborn babies and young toddlers can help reduce a possible death toll buy helping them seek treatment immediately.
- Medical alert apps: It is not enough for these sorts of vital symptoms to be tracked in real-time but for action to be taken regarding them. In very high technology hospitals, it is likely that these vital signs will be transmitted directly to hospitals and systems, and alerts put out once any potential COVID-19 symptom is reported. As such, hospitals are likely entering a phase in which the vital signs of patients will be consistently monitored and any negative change will immediately be cause for alarm. While a dystopian concept as of now, it is not impossible that we will see hospitals contacting patients because their transmitted vitals are unusual and this could go on to revolutionize medicine not only in light of COVID-19 but for patients with certain health conditions overall.
Elderly patients already have tools such as LifeAlert to call for help should they be in need of assistance but this concept could be applied to younger people. Instead, however, the patients themselves will not need to call for help but technology will do so on their behalf. The calls for help will also be independent of human error as they will be based on signs that might not be obvious to the patient themselves.
The medical world as we know it was never going to be the same once COVID-19 hit. However, the sector wearable health technology is going to go through much change over the years. As more and more innovative companies are designing wearable medical device software, it will likely see an expansion in the ways in which is applied. If you intend to develop any of such wearables, make sure it in line with current industry predictions to get the best possible results.
From the constant monitoring of vital signs to the tracking of potentially infected individuals, the way in which we interact with healthcare providers is moving towards a more tech-savvy future.