Imagine if ten years ago you asked one of your patients, “How many steps did you take today?” How would they even begin to respond? What could be done with that information? Wearable technology has advanced to the point where a wristwatch can even measure the patient’s sleep patterns. The potential benefit is not just in having this information, but in using it to improve your patients’ overall health–which is what makes wearable technology a great fit for Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Businesses that provide wearable technology and incentives for their use as part of their Occupational Medicine programs are finding real health benefits for employees. For example, a team of Georgetown Medical Center study showed that when a fitness-tracking device was combined with an internet platform, participants took hundreds of steps more than co-workers who wore no device. Wearables have also been shown to improve workplace safety in settings by providing alerts for potential hazards. This results in a workforce that is both healthier and less expensive to insure.
Improving Heart Health Using Wearables
Wearables can monitor a variety of different health metrics for your patients, such as their continuous heart-rate and the number of calories burned in a workout. For patients at risk of heart-related illnesses, wearable technology can be an excellent tool. In cardiology, wearable technology provides you with deeper insights into your patient’s heart activity.
The use of EHR software can then tie all this insight together and assist you in developing your patients’ health strategies. PrognoCIS Cardiology EHR is customized for the cardiology workflow with treatment plans, cardiac procedures templates, and powerful prescription analytics tools. Please read our cardiology EHR case study to learn more.
Promoting the Use of Wearable Technology
Last year the FDA began regulating the use of wearables and mobile apps for health care. On the Mobile Medical Applications page of their website they state that “the widespread adoption and use of mobile technologies are opening new and innovative ways to improve health and health care delivery.” They also acknowledge the fact that the technology is being adopted nearly as quickly as it’s being developed: “According to industry estimates, 500 million smartphone users worldwide will be using a healthcare application by 2015, and by 2018, 50 percent of the more than 3.4 billion smartphone and tablet users will have downloaded mobile health applications.”
In a recent press release by the FTC, it was announced that mobile medical app developers will need to remain in compliance with federal regulations, including 510(k) Premarket Notification.
Considering all the potential health benefits wearables deliver, the wearable technology industry should have no problem staying in business. Surprisingly, though, this technology is a bit underutilized. Asus, one of the biggest manufacturers of wearable technology, is rumored to be discontinuing their Zenwatch line due to dwindling sales.
The reason behind this may be that people are excited about physical fitness only in the short term. Late-night infomercials for The Abdominizer come to mind. People buy in, use their wearable technology for a little while, but soon lose interest. As with anything, lasting results require long, hard, dedicated work to find and maintain the benefits.
This is probably why, as mentioned above, work-related incentive programs for the use of pedometers really do get results. When there is a goal, a sense of competition, or even a financial reward, employees really do use wearable technology and get all the benefits of it.
Whatever happens to the wearable technology industry, the potential impact it has on your patients, especially in Occupational/Environmental Medicine, is undeniable. Along with those benefits, to the employer, healthy workers are less expensive to insure, which potentially increases a business’s profitability. The value that wearable technology brings to businesses makes it more than just a health fad, but an integral tool in employee health programs.