Wearable health technology in medical and consumer arenas

Last updated:September 2015

Editor's note

There's no doubting the popularity of wearable health technology among consumers. If and how those devices and the data they collect can be worked into patient care episodes across the healthcare industry is still to be decided. Wearable devices can track nearly everything, from physical activity to sleep and exposure to sunlight. Their versatility and portability appeal to consumers and make them a consideration for providers that want to cut down on in-person visits and allow physicians to remotely check in on patients.

While fitness enthusiasts often buy their own wearables to track their activity levels, most patients aren't as willing to make a similar purchase. This indecision leaves providers to assess whether it's worth it for them to foot the bill and distribute wearable monitors to selected patients.

If calculating the return on investment (ROI) of wearable health technology is the main criteria giving providers pause, then the security and regulation of data captured by wearables isn't far behind. Any data that comes from patient-bought devices isn't required to be protected under HIPAA, but hospital-assigned devices that contain protected health information must be HIPAA-compliant. One of the cases against wearables in healthcare is that encouraging physicians to work with data derived from wearable devices could result in a technology overload and drive physicians away from face-to-face patient-physician interactions.

Check out the guide sections and stories below for analysis, opinions and projections of how wearable health technology can be applied to patient care.

1Providers' perspectives on wearable health technology

While the amount of healthcare technology is growing, many hospital IT budgets are staying the same or shrinking. With this in mind, health IT executives have to decide what technologies are worth their time and financial investments. This guide section looks at why it's complicated to calculate the ROI of a wearable health technology implementation. Read a roundup of SearchHealthIT's Twitter chat and find out why one hospital CIO believes providers can no longer use indeterminate costs as an excuse for not beginning a wearables project.

2Healthcare wearable technology innovation

Financially incentivizing employees and providing them with wearable technology are a couple ways to encourage them to improve their health and keep them out of the healthcare system. Devices such as the Apple Watch have caught the eyes of many consumers, but it's up to patients and their healthcare providers together to sort out how popular wearables can be used in traditional care settings. Go over this guide section to gather some experts' insights into what the next few years may hold for wearable health technology.