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Wearing Health Tech

You might not realise it, but wearables in health tech are already pervasive (think: your Apple Watch or FitBit) - so where do we go from here?

It’s safe to say wearable tech has grown rapidly over the last few years.

You’ve no doubt seen it in action before, or maybe you’re even wearing one yourself right now, like an Apple Watch. 

In 2020 the global wearable market was worth around $50 Billion dollars and is growing at a rapid rate of 16% per year.

It’s estimated that by 2027, wearables will boast a $150 Billion marketplace.

So what does this mean for healthcare? 

Wearables aren’t that new in healthcare

If we take a step back and look at the history of wearable tech in healthcare, one of the most successful examples can be seen is the development of the groundbreaking Cochlear implant. 

In 1978, Australia’s own Professor Graham Clark changed the game for - and the lives of - hearing imparied people across the world. 

Since these early days, organisations like Cochlear continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the hearing industry, through advanced audio streaming technology and artificial intelligence, increasing availability of quality hearing care.

What’s driving wearable health tech?

If you’re up to date with the latest market reports and research papers, it won't be a surprise to hear that the demand for integrated healthcare is high.

There are a variety of factors influencing and enforcing this drive towards wearable health tech including:

  • An ageing population
  • Improved supply factors
  • Better R&D
  • Enhanced functionality
  • Better integration with the Internet of Things (IoT) systems and solutions

The darkside of wearable technology

There’s still a lot of hesitance when it comes to wearables in the world of health.

The concept of ‘Always On, Always on Me’ that comes with consumer wearables brings with it the underlying concern of hyperfocus.

For example many people feel under pressure to reach daily targets set by their wearable fitness devices, and when they don’t they instead feel guilt. 

The dark side of this is increased stress, lower adherence rates and a question of whether the positives outweigh the negatives.

Data and privacy is another ongoing concern for the health sector, and while it’s often talked about, it remains a peak issue. 

Highly sensitive personal data is collected by wearable health technology - but who has access to it? 

This concern is amplified when we consider situations like Google acquiring FitBit earlier this year or the implications of insurance companies acquiring access to highly personal health data.

The power and potential of wearable tech

Despite these concerns, the industry is showing no signs of slowing - only growing!

An there’s no doubt that the technology is here to help, rather than hinder, by providing care providers with a unique window into their patients daily lives, along with the power to predictively manage health concerns or even injuries like falls in elderly patients.

Clinicians are certainly more armed than ever to meet the evolving standards of patient-centered care.

Where to next for wearables in health?

Overall, the future for wearables is promising. 

As patients with digitally enabled access to their own health data interact with health practitioners with the same information, data asymmetry concerns lessen, and patient outcomes can improve as a result of the collaborative approach to healthcare that wearables enable.

Wearables stand to drastically reduce the costs of delivery, lower the number of physical visits to doctors and hospitals and gather crucial data that can be used to prevent disease progression. 

In short - there's little chance that wearables wont continue to grow the capabilities of healthcare delivery and continues changing the world of healthcare as we know it.

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