Wearable technology, or “wearables,” have become popular among consumers who track their fitness with devices such as Fitbit. The Apple Watch brings the game to a whole new level with its potential to collect patients’ medical data to share with physicians (HealthKit) and, even, with clinical trials (ResearchKit).
But will wearables catch on enough to make a difference?
The game-changing tech companies bring their arsenal of super marketing prowess and distribution, but for many doctors, the data collected by wearable devices generally remains a novelty, not a necessity. David Lee Scher, MD, points out that the rate of acceptance by physicians is age-dependent. He cites a survey by Med Data Group that found that, “Two-thirds of doctors younger than 40 years believe that a fully connected healthcare environment will take place within the next five years, whereas 61% of those older than 40 years think it will happen more than five years from now. “
So what needs to change for wearable devices to actually infiltrate? Many are saying this would depend upon a new medical-device breakthrough. An example would be a device that would somehow “listen” to blood flow to predict heart attacks, or one that non-invasively measured blood glucose levels – in other words, something big and transformative. Unfortunately, bringing such a device to market would need rigorous clinical trials and probably U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Some of the more successful companies, like Apple, are not afraid to do the hard work and understand the importance of meeting repeatedly with the FDA to proactively resolve any safety and security concerns that may be associated with their products.
Perhaps most important is the positivity around the idea of what this new technology has the potential to do. The tech companies and their hospital partners realize wearable tech is a huge fountain of health data sent directly from the wearer to their medical records.
For patients, the ability to receive notifications about healthcare as well as appointment and medication reminders from physicians is attractive. Patients also love the idea of constant communication and getting up-to-date results about their condition. This connectedness could possibly also improve their health. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic concluded the use of internet-based technologies by patients with cardiovascular disease improved outcomes.
As a marketer, the ability to better connect patients with their healthcare providers is the most exciting thing to me about wearables. We shall see what the next generation of technology delivers.