How gadgets are changing our understanding of health monitoring

By 2025, the market for wearable medical gadgets can grow two and a half times. For patients, this means fewer invasive procedures and doctor visits, but more options for health monitoring.

The most popular wearable medical gadgets today are sleep and activity trackers, as well as devices for diabetics. Together they account for over 86% of the global market, according to Global Markets Insights.

This is not surprising: the fashion for productivity, a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your body pushes consumers to control the state of the body. At the same time, despite the popularity of healthy lifestyles, the number of diabetics continues to grow. Last year, 4,8 million people with this diagnosis were counted in our country alone. Over the past five years, they have increased by 23%.

The number of devices that are used for continuous health monitoring is growing even faster. According to MarketsandMarkets, the market for wearable medical gadgets will increase by 2,5 times in the next five years. Moreover, the devices themselves are becoming smarter and more convenient, changing approaches to health control.

1. Invasive procedures are becoming rarer

You don’t have to prick your finger to measure your blood sugar. Modern glucose monitoring devices allow you to do this without blood using non-invasive devices.

So, Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre device has a sensor that is equipped with a small hair with a special enzyme. This hair is placed under the skin and determines the level of glucose in the interstitial fluid. As a result, patients do not need to pierce their fingers many times a day. In fact, they can constantly monitor their glucose levels in real time and take action if necessary.

Studies have shown that continuous use of this glucose monitoring system for a year or more has improved well-being and reduced disease severity for both type 50 and type XNUMX diabetic patients. Users were less likely to experience hypoglycemia and end up in hospitals, and were less likely to miss work due to diabetes. The innovative device is already on sale in XNUMX countries of the world, including delivery throughout our country.

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For some studies, thanks to wearable gadgets, not only penetration under the skin, but even contact with the patient’s body is now required. For example, Microsoft developed smart glasses a couple of years ago that use optical heart rate sensors to measure blood pressure. They read the pulse at several points at once, on the basis of these data they determine the speed of blood movement and calculate blood pressure.

In turn, the American Aum Cardiovascular has proposed a device that can monitor the state of the coronary arteries without invasive intervention. It captures and analyzes the sound with which blood passes through the arteries, and thus monitors the presence of cholesterol plaques.

How Innovative Glucose Control for Diabetics Works

Example: FreeStyle Libre system from Abbott

  • Does not require a finger prick: data is read during a painless 1-second scan
  • Each scan displays the current glucose level and the direction in which its level is currently changing
  • The patient’s condition is monitored around the clock: with the device you can go to the shower and even swim, but not longer than 30 minutes
  • Data for the last 8 hours is visible on the sensor screen, then they are transferred to the scanner, which stores information for up to 90 days
  • All information can be shown to the doctor so that he makes a more informed decision

2. Monitor the state of the body will be continuously

Until recently, the most common method of more or less long-term medical monitoring outside the hospital was the Holter ECG method. It was first used by biophysicist Norman Holter in 1952, and the technology has changed little since then. The patient is put on wires and a monitor with a memory card inside, which is usually attached to a belt. After a day, the device is removed, and the data is transferred to a computer.

Patients entangled with wires for a daily ECG are limited in activity. Therefore, most often the device fixes the parameters in a state of relative rest. But most importantly, the data is recorded only during the day (in rare cases, the device is worn for several days). Such a short interval may not be sufficient for a complete medical picture.

Most of the other studies are carried out only pointwise. Pressure, glucose or oxygen levels are usually measured as of this particular moment. And to see the dynamics, a re-analysis is required.

However, new generations of wearable medical gadgets have learned to track the condition continuously. Sleep and activity trackers can measure heart rate and blood pressure 24/7 for many days in a row. The same goes for glucose monitoring systems.

3. Gadgets will tell the doctor about the problems themselves

In 2014, CareTaker, a small Virginia startup, came up with a device that allows patients to be discharged from the hospital earlier and monitored remotely. The monitor is worn on the wrist and records the temperature, pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen level in the blood. Via bluetooth, it transmits data first to a smartphone, and from there, via an application and cloud storage, to a device for a doctor or caregiver.

Over the past six years, many services have learned to notify doctors about the condition of patients. For example, some ECG-recording smartphone cases are connected to telemedicine services and allow you to receive instant consultations from a specialist.

Not only patients, but also clinics are interested in such devices. Market participants have repeatedly said that healthcare needs gadgets that can automatically send data to clinic information systems. But earlier this lacked the technological base in the clinics themselves and affordable devices for patients. Now that the pandemic has greatly fueled interest in telemedicine, and gadgets have become more diverse and cheaper, this monitoring model will be in demand in many countries.

4. Devices will correct our behavior

Medical gadgets are not yet able to replace doctors, but in some cases they allow you to do without them. Devices have already learned how to give patients recommendations on how best to behave in order to avoid illness or poor health.

For example, trackers help to properly prepare for sleep and distribute activity throughout the day. And “smart” toothbrushes can advise you on the right toothpaste for you and check whether you have cleaned a particular tooth well.

By itself, information about the state of the body, if you receive it in real time, also helps to correct your behavior in time. So, gadgets for diabetics can show not only the level of glucose at the moment, but also in which direction the indicator is changing now. If glucose is low and continues to fall, then it is advisable for the patient to eat something as soon as possible. And if the level is low, but growing, then just wait a bit.

On top of that, wearable medical gadgets generate a huge amount of data that is potentially suitable for predictive analytics. With their help, it is possible to predict diseases and give recommendations on nutrition and exercise not only for today, but for the rest of your life.

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