Home It’s all in the wrist: Wearables are Helping to Treat Disease and Disability

It’s all in the wrist: Wearables are Helping to Treat Disease and Disability

Ever imagined a life with an impairment that is here to stay? Ever thought of being hooked to a disability that drives all your passions away? What if you can’t lift your leg straight up, or what if your arm doesn’t extend out properly?

While it is a difficult process of recovering from such disabilities, many of us suffer from not only the physical impairment but also from the mental trauma that accompanies.

Physicians, therapists, and coaches work day in and out to treat such patients through intense workout schedules. However, as soon as the patient is discharged and sent home, the constant monitoring process stops, which more than often culminates into more loss of functionality.

Medical practitioners have long been perplexed with such concerns, amongst many others. Top of the list remains to help the patients with permanent (or even temporary) disabilities that limit their functionality.

Researchers, programmers, and high-tech companies have invested time, effort, and resources to develop cutting-edge technologies to assist such patients.

There is a new generation of wearables that are specially equipped to monitor, encourage, and also treat patients.

Many of these patients are suffering from chronic physical and mental ailments such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and even tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Electronic health records software (such as with companies like CureMD, and others), have wearables that are smart devices that are easy to wear. An example of these is like smartwatches and Fitbit — that essentially collect user’s data related to personal health, fitness and behavioral patterns.

While these wearables initially launched as fancy gadgets that built up your social status by helping you count your steps or burnt calories, etc., they are now becoming mainstream in the healthcare industry owing to their profound impact.

Scaling way faster than we had imagined, wearable technology is today being widely used by physicians, surgeons, patients, and insurance providers. The wearable tech is radically transforming the entire dynamics of the healthcare industry.

Wearable the Smartphone Apps

Wearable health technologies, when combined with an intelligent smartphone app, can capture the most imperceptible symptoms of patients. The information can then offer the physician all the necessary statistics to make an informed diagnosis.

According to an Accenture Survey, the use of wearable devices amongst US consumers has literally more than doubled during the 2014-2016 period, from 9% to 21%. Interestingly, around 77% of the wearables consumers and 85% of practices applaud the benefits of using wearables for inpatient care.

How exactly do wearables change the face of healthcare?

Here are the top five benefits accruing from using wearables for patient care:

  1. Empowered patients – these wearable devices are specially equipped to empower the patients in terms of tracking and sharing their vital medical data with their physicians. Such devices allow them to track behavioral changes such as sleep patterns, exercise routines, vital stats, and so forth, which can then be shared with the practice.

    Careful, accurate monitoring tends to render a significant impact on the overall health of the patient, since the patient-physician relationship essentially changes from hierarchical to consultative.

  2. Remote patient monitoring – wearables have also proven their mark in radically improving the accuracy as well as reliability of patient monitoring at remote locations. For instance, checking blood pressure, tracking heart rate, measuring oxygenation, and monitoring blood glucose levels. Each of these can easily be done remotely using wearables.

    There are added benefits that accrue from the scalability of the devices. For instance, a single nursing staff can oversee hundreds of critical patients from a single computer source, undertaking appropriate action in case of an emergency signal.

  3. Remote treatment – yes, wearables can be used to treat patients remotely. For instance, Quell is a wearable device that is attached to the upper calf to block pain signals anywhere in the body through the use of electrical stimulation that triggers the central nervous system response.
  4. Virtual visits – wearables particularly allow the physicians to not only check on patients without a brick-and-mortar office but also offer ease of access and availability to their patients.

    For instance, a patient with an ear infection can be virtually consulted through a wearable device that conducts a virtual ear exam, off the specialist’s facility, doing away with the need for a follow-up.

    Similarly, wearables allow virtual monitoring of diabetes, neuropathic pain, macular degeneration, and many other conditions.

  5. Helping with disabilities – this one is perhaps the most acclaimed benefit of wearables making headlines in recent times.

    Wearables particularly aid disabled people in managing their daily life chores without external help. Simple innovations such as special glasses help the blind to see. Smart glasses help patients with cerebral palsy to use the internet with ease. Haptic shoes help the blind to easily navigate routes using GPS technology, and the list goes on.

Wearables Can Save Lives of Those with Disabilities

Yes, wearables are a magic wand for those with disabilities. The tech canvas is proliferated with technological breakthroughs that have largely facilitated disabled patients to enjoy a normalized life.

For instance, the Bruise Suit is specially designed for disabled athletes with a loss of sensation. it is essentially a smart injury detection suit that applies a recyclable pressure-sensitive film to identify the severity of injuries. Covering the high-risk areas with disposable and made-to-fit film, the film changes color in case of excessive stress. Hence, after training or competing, the injured areas can be easily spotted due to color change.

GlassOuse is another breakthrough wearable technology that allows patients without limbs to use electronic gadgets without having to use their hands. It basically moves the cursor on the screen using your head movements, while you can click on the screen by simply biting on a blue extension on the device.

More recently, a Tongue Drive System has radically transformed the lives of patients with high-level spinal cord injuries. It is a dental retainer embedded with sensors that allow the patient to operate a computer and maneuver an electrically powered wheelchair by simply moving their tongue.

Having discussed the life-saving impact of wearables on patients’ life, it goes without saying that wearables are a life-saver.

Some may judge it a petty thing with a wearable, such as tracking weight, diet and exercise routines. But it’s not to someone who must lose weight to stay alive.

Wearables have gone beyond the functionality of a fitness tracker, to revolutionizing preventive and diagnostic medicine, especially for those with diseases and disabilities.

Image Credit: Samantha Garrote; Pexels

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Nathan Bradshaw is a health enthusiast, talented author, celebrated pod caster and a poet who is now the co-editor and imaginative contributor of health fuel with a background in collaborative care networks and artificial intelligence. Nathan Bradshaw works from a creative wellspring that shows no signs of running dry.

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