As healthcare business practitioners and policy-makers across the globe move towards the field of e-health, the field of wearable technology is furnishing extraordinary opportunities for the future for healthcare services.
The widespread use of any device worn on the body that gathers data for patient health monitoring, clinical research, and fitness and wellness tracking has piled up vast stores of health information.
According to researchers at IBM Watson, the average person is likely to generate more than 1 million gigabytes of health-related data in their lifetime.
One of the biggest challenges for the healthcare industry today is developing a seamless data-driven approach that minimizes risk and brings maximum benefit at the same time.
This calls for the need to leverage a robust big data and analytics model for healthcare wearables: one that will constantly streamline and update the vast troves of healthcare data and furnish personalized experiences for individuals.
In this piece, we will be looking at how big data analytics is reshaping the wearable device market and what healthcare businesses can do to take this integration to the next level for ameliorated patient outcomes. But before that, let us get to understand:
Generation of Health Data by Wearable Technology
Source: Health Informatics
Wearable technology has ascended faster than anyone could have comprehended. It isn’t only being used by consumers, but also by physicians, surgeons, and insurance companies. It is causing the dynamics of the entire healthcare realm to shift rapidly.
The global wearable medical devices market size is anticipated to touch USD 27,255.6 million at a whopping 23% CAGR by 2023, as per the recent analysis by Market Research Future (MRFR).
Let’s take a brief look at some of the ways in which wearable technology is transforming healthcare today.
1) Comprehensive Patient Information Across Multiple Data Points
Today, myriad apps and devices are available to individuals in their daily lives and in the privacy of their own homes.
The innumerable sensors located in wearables can record and keep track of the factors that affect our health.
Here are a few ways in which wearables collect data for our overall well-being:
- Sleep Tracking: Without sufficient sleep, one can easily be vulnerable to various mental health disorders. A sleep tracker that you wear to bed makes it convenient to track your sleep stages.
- Heart Rate Monitor: Anxiety can be a real pain at times and it can be detected by an increase in your heart rate. Health Wearables make it possible to monitor your heart rate with utmost ease.
- Proximity Detection: This feature can help individuals detect their social interactions. Now they won’t withdraw entirely and slip into depression.
- Electronic Sensors: Various electronic sensors can be added to the wearable. These can then track body temperature and with the help of EEG electrodes..
If the wearable is connected to a unit that is operated by a physician, it becomes a treasure trove of data. All this would finally round off in long-term welfare of the patient.
2) Placing More Power in the Hands of the Patients
More and more patients are sharing data from their wearables with doctors, despite the fact that they don’t need to track their vitals for medical motives. Devices track things like exercise routines and sleep patterns, which have a significant effect on holistic wellbeing, but aren’t included in medical records—unless patients share details and doctors note them down.
Interpreting data from wearables, patients can take the initiative to discuss and monitor their own health. Their relation with physicians becomes informative, rather than hierarchical.
3) Taking Clinical Trials out of Clinics and into the Real World
Wearable devices are changing the way clinical trials are conducted with the level of engagement they deliver and growing consumer adoption.
Compliance and monitoring are recurrent issues in clinical trials. Healthcare wearables provide a fitting solution. According to one report, approximately 300 clinical trials have hitherto brought wearables to use for monitoring patients.
Researchers can examine the data gathered through wearables to build more beneficial insights into individual and population trends gradually. A persistent stream of data extracted from wearables will provide researchers with a better understanding of results, and may also lead to increased patient participation.
Now that we know what the applications of healthcare wearables truly are about and how it is transforming eHealth, let us look at what big data and analytics is, and how this technology is reshaping the wearable device market.
What is Big Data Analytics?
Big data analytics in healthcare is a term used to describe enormous volumes of information generated by the adoption of digital technologies that collect patients’ records and provide assistance in managing its performance, otherwise too large and compound for conventional technologies.
The application of big data analytics in healthcare has numerous positive outcomes. Applied to healthcare, this technology will use specific health data of a population (or of a particular individual) and potentially help to cure disease, cut down costs, prevent epidemics, etc.
Some of the common applications of Big Data Analytics in healthcare include:
- Patient predictions for improved staffing,
- Integrating the data from Electronic Health Records (EHR) for improved patient outcomes,
- Real-time alerting through means of Clinician Decision Support (CDS) software,
- Enhancing patient engagement by using data collected through wearables,
- Using health data for informed strategic planning,
- Reducing fraud and enhancing security through predictive analytics,
- Improving personnel management and furnishing smart staffing solutions,
- Suicide and self harm prevention,
- Advanced risk and disease management, and
- Enhanced supply chain management.
There’s a huge need for integrating big data analytics with healthcare systems to tackle rising costs. As a McKinsey report states: “After more than 20 years of steady increases, healthcare expenses now represent 17.6 percent of GDP — nearly $600 billion more than the expected benchmark for a nation of the United States’ size and wealth.”
In other words, costs are much higher than they should be, and they have been rising for more than two decades now. Clearly, we are in need of some intelligent, data-driven thinking in this area.
How Big Data Analytics is Reshaping the Wearable Device Market?
As wearable technology becomes more sought-after, people have gotten their expectations higher and have started banking on it more. They want results that are specifically tailored to match their likes and needs. And they want them to be delivered more reliably and speedily.
Big Data is proving to be beneficial on both sides of this equation.
Demographic, usage, and consumer expectation data is rapidly pouring in from wearables. This data is being analyzed by analytic-based systems to get the customer what he or she wants.
Although the data gathered from wearable technology is yet to be completely explored or analyzed, this constant stream of information will call for massive data processing and storage capabilities.
Tackling this particular aspect of wearables, along with the multi-tasking requirements as well as computation limits that come alongside their adoption, is where the real challenge lies for health systems today.
From smartwatches to fitness and activity trackers and even smart clothing, the possibilities are practically endless within the wearable technology industry.
Taking the data collected from wearable devices to the next level of usefulness requires companies to build in additional analysis features that will improve the usefulness of the wearable technology, increase engagement levels, and provide an unmatched benefit to the consumer.
And that’s exactly what Big Data Analytics has in its toolbox.
Just as eCommerce vendors make use of geo-locational pings within mobile apps to send consumers hyper-targeted marketing offers, wearable devices can leverage the power of analytics to furnish personalized offers to consumers.
By analyzing the data captured by wearables, healthcare organizations can design offers that are customized as per the demand of each consumer.
For example, a step-tracker might reveal that a consumer takes the most steps around coffee break. A healthcare app or fitness tracker could then leverage this information via personalized offers to encourage the consumer to take more steps throughout the day.
In this way, the device/app not only serves its purpose of tracking fitness data, but it also provides additional analytic benefits to the consumer.
With the help of data analytics, companies will soon also be able to use wearable technologies to improve employee health and productivity.
Wearable devices can collect the data needed for a company to analyze the hours of the day that their employees are most productive.
Additionally, the devices can monitor the health of employees, so that the company can mitigate the risks associated with lack of sleep, high levels of stress, and other health symptoms that contribute to an unhappy and ineffective workforce.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are many other advantages that come alongside the integration of big data analytics and wearables.
Big data and analytics is set to take the eHealth industry by storm in the near future. It is important that healthcare vendors realize its potential and look at ways the technology can be leveraged to its full potential.
Doing this will not only ensure better population health outcomes, it will also propel the healthcare industry towards greater success and prepare it for a promising future: one where human intelligence and machines work hand-in-hand to enhance care delivery.