Table of Contents
The number of people that require health monitoring systems has increased due to an aging population, and many people need quality medical attention. As healthcare providers look into the possibilities that technology presents in approaching health issues, they can quantify parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, and the respiratory rate using wearable devices. Healthcare providers have to collect accurate health information from a large number of patients, and these smart devices help them to do so even without the client’s visit to a hospital. The wearable technology can be used in real-time data collection, sensing the status of the environment, and manipulating external systems (Rogers, Pi, & Conroy, 2015). Some of the elements that the wearable devices can monitor include the body movement, physiological parameters, the features of the external environment, as well as a person’s location. The adoption of wearable technology is happening gradually, where some people adopted the innovation at an early stage, others belong to the early and late majority categories, and the rest are the laggards. Although the use of wearable technologies has many benefits, unauthorized parties may use the personal information that the wearable technologies collect, hence creating privacy concerns.
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Technology has played a significant role in contributing to the advances in medical care, and it has addressed the need for cost-effective healthcare solutions. One area that has attracted the attention of innovators is smart computing, and researchers are interested in wearable devices since they have shown their ability to model human behavior (Saleem et al. 2017). Wearable technology can have many applications in healthcare considering that the devices may have sensors with monitoring and diagnostic capabilities. Ubiquitous monitoring in healthcare is now possible as a result of the advances made in computing and electronics. However, the adoption of wearable technology has encountered barriers such issues with their design, as well as privacy concerns. Wearable technology has presented numerous benefits to health care, as it provides greater potential in health and fitness. A literature review of the benefits of wearable technology offers an overview of what wearable technology has achieved in healthcare, especially the monitoring of physiological parameters and the detection of health conditions. Wearable technology can be utilized in many areas, and this review will not only cover the benefits of these monitoring systems, but it will address some of the barriers to their use.
Benefits Associated with the Strategic Use of the Technology
A large number of people are benefiting from the use of wearable technologies. The healthcare system is benefiting from these wearable devices since physicians can employ them to monitor their clients’ health status. Many developed countries have heavily invested in their health care sectors as a measure of improving the quality of care offered. Moreover, most individuals have the desire to track their health status, and since the majority of them might have fast-paced lives, they could find it difficult to make medical appointments regularly. Baig and Gholamhosseini (2013) argue that the number of people that require health monitoring systems has increased due to an increase in the elderly population. The elderly tend to be affected by medical conditions that require regular monitoring. As healthcare providers look into the possibilities that technology presents in approaching health issues, they can quantify parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, and the respiratory rate using the wearable devices.
Lee et al. (2016) indicate that wearable technology has a variety of applications in the medical field including the monitoring of physical activities, and they have sensors that facilitate the collection of such information. One of the challenges that healthcare providers deal with is the collection of accurate health information from a large number of patients, and these smart devices help them to do so even without the client’s visit to a hospital. Patients can utilize wearable health monitoring systems to receive medical attention even if they are not in a healthcare setting (Baig & Gholamhosseini, 2013). The sensors in the wearable devices can transmit information from the client to the healthcare provider, and this enables the physician to know whether there should be concern over the patient’s condition.
There is no limit to the application of wearable technology in the provision of quality medical care. Patel et al. (2010) indicate the some of the capabilities of the wearable sensors include biochemical, physiological and motion sensing. These tools facilitate more accurate diagnoses and treatment of medical conditions. When an individual has a particular disease or issues with mobility, and they require constant supervision, there would be no need of consulting a physician all the time. If a person has access to a wearable device, the practitioner would be aware of the client’s condition throughout the day as one receives updates. Equally important, the wearable technology can be used in real-time data collection, sensing the status of the environment, and manipulating external systems (Rogers, Pi, & Conroy, 2015).
The incorporation of wearable devices in the provision of medical services has come about at a time when many people are embracing the technology. For instance, Rawassizadeh, Price, and Petre (2015) have the opinion that wearables are advantageous compared to other technological devices because of their connection to the skin, and they facilitate hands-free use. People with medical conditions can, therefore, utilize these devices without the need to remember carrying them around. Besides, the sensors in the wearable device are in constant contact with the person wearing it, and whenever they detect motion or changes the person’s physiology, they would give this indication. Sensors can be present in the wearable vests, and they have the capability to collect bio-signals for parameters such as body temperature, blood pressure, galvanic skin response, and the heart rate (Baig & Gholamhosseini, 2013). Even though these sensors might have been integrated into the devices, they are neither obstructive nor invasive.
Alam and Hamida (2014) illustrate the significance of wearables as the emergency medical services can use them to manage life-critical operations. For instance, workers that are in unhealthy environments such as construction sites can be affected by the exposure to health hazards, and it is important to monitor them. Some of the elements that the wearable devices can measure include the body movement, physiological parameters, the features of the external environment, as well as a person’s location (Alam & Hamida, 2014). The health and safety of people in such working environments are paramount, and the wearable technology enables the medical team in charge of a group of workers to prevent work-related diseases or deaths.
The ability of wearables to monitor the physiological changes in a person’s body makes it possible for healthcare providers to offer interventions to their clients even without meeting with them. Mukhopadhyay (2015) asserts that when patients have medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or a risk of a heart attack, wearables would monitor the physiological signals and send them to the healthcare provider. Individuals undergoing rehabilitation can make use of the wearables since they can provide feedback to the caregiver, hence enabling them to track the patient’s progress. Patel et al. (2012) suggest that through the use of remote monitoring systems and wearable sensors, individuals that reside far from health specialists do not have to worry about their health since the physicians can monitor them regularly.
Different sensors can be incorporated into wearable technology, and these are the ones that detect changes in a person’s body, and one can then determine the appropriate steps to take if a corrective measure is necessary. For example, force sensors, gyroscopes, and other sensors such as accelerometers can help in the assessment of an individual’s movement characteristics (Rogers, Pai, & Conroy, 2015). Through the analysis of the motion that a person makes with the wearable device on, the healthcare provider can determine the client’s well-being, and be alert whenever that person encounters a medical emergency. A practitioner can evaluate the physiological parameters in people in real-time, and when the wearer’s physical conditions or habits change, this implies that medical intervention is necessary (Chan et al., 2012). The elderly can benefit the most from the use of wearable technology since they are the ones that primarily need preventive medical protocols that can continuously monitor and transmit their health parameters. The party that receives the reports from the wearable device can then determine the appropriate measures to keep the wearer in good health.
Lee et al. (2016) delineate some of the sensors found in wearable technology and their uses, and it is evident that each of them serves a different purpose. Some of the functions of the wearable sensors include the measurement of blood flow resistance, recording the changes in the status of muscles, blood pulse volume, and skin conductance (Lee et al., 2016). A wearable device would, therefore, have a particular purpose, and one would create it with the goal of improving the quality of life. Saleem et al. (2017) illustrate that the use of wearable technology reduces the need for people to take data from patients as these devices are accurate at doing that, and this minimizes hospital visits.
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Strategy for Addressing the Implementation of Wearable Technology
Wearable technology in the medical sector has not been in existence for long, as it emerged due to an increased need for other technological devices with sensing capabilities. However, the adoption of wearable technology and its use has been gradual considering that not every person believes in their effectiveness and the role that they play in the medical field. According to the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, everyone that is part of the society cannot adopt the use of the innovation at the same time. This proposition offers a clear explanation as to why some people appear to be skeptical regarding the use of wearable technology. The adoption of any innovation takes time, and it follows a particular order where some people take a longer time than others before trying out a new idea.
Considering that wearable technology can be used to evaluate a variety of health parameters after monitoring them, people have implemented through the use of models. Neatu (2015) posits that some of the stakeholders in public health including healthcare providers and government officials have seen the need to encourage people to use the innovative monitoring technologies through behavioral economics. According to Neatu (2015), before the development of wearable technology, one of the considerations that innovators have to take is the device’s ability to satisfy the wearer’s demands. The person with the wearable device has to move around with it, and it is hard for one to do so if they consider the system to be cumbersome.
The implementation of wearable technology has to take into account the fact that the majority of individuals can only use them when they feel comfortable with them when they do not have privacy concerns. However, the acceptance of wearable technology has increased, and Page (2015b) indicates that 70% of people are currently informed about this innovation. The adoption of wearable technology is taking shape in steps, where some people adopted the wearables at an early stage, others belong to the early and late majority categories, and the rest are the laggards. According to the survey that Page (2015b) highlights, 15% of the people that offered responses indicated that they were early adopters since they were already using the wearable technologies. The group of individuals that started using wearable technology as soon as it emerged in the market is likely to comprise of the persons that knew about the benefits of the innovation earlier, especially the healthcare providers.
Practitioners play a significant role in urging people to adopt the wearable technologies, and they are in the best position of opinion leadership in the implementation of medical technologies. Neatu (2015) notes that representativeness is one aspect that the early adopters can utilize to make other people appreciate a new idea or innovation that individuals have not used. 50% of the people that Page (2015b) describes in the study indicated that they were interested in purchasing the wearable technologies, but the high cost of the devices was their only impediment. The group of people in the late majority category would often be skeptical regarding the use of wearable technology, and most of them might not like certain features in the devices. On the other hand, the laggards in wearable technology use comprise of individuals that do not believe in the effectiveness of the devices since they have a fixation on the conventional medical approaches. The report that Page (2015b) presents shows that only 5% of those who are aware of this innovation lack any interest in adopting it even in the future.
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Potential Ethical and Societal Issues
The use of wearable devices as a means of monitoring a person’s health is beneficial, but it has various moral and social issues. Punagin and Arya (2015) indicate that the sensors that collect data from a person that wears a smart device would facilitate the generation of big data that would bring about privacy issues. Other unauthorized parties may use the personal information that the wearable technologies collect, and the owner could even fail to notice this. On the other hand, if the wearable technology has design flaws, it could be inappropriate for use since it might be vulnerable to hacking. Arias et al. (2015) suggest that while it might be difficult to secure a product cryptographically, there could be vulnerabilities in the software if a developer ignores this step. Page (2015a) argues that many individuals assume that their privacy is breached by the collection of their personal information through sensors, and others believe that this is an aspect that might lead to discrimination from the company. Discriminating a person with wearable technology might, however, only happen when an individual does not have access to a personal physician.
The Future of Wearable Technology
Wearable devices help in the collection of health information that is private since the owner of the data does not authorize any other party apart from the healthcare provider to utilize it. According to Punagin & Arya (2015), data records should be indistinguishable with other data sets such that an attacker would get no meaningful information if the anonymity feature is on. Safavi and Shukur (2014) believe that the design of healthcare technology gadgets should eliminate the privacy issues while focusing on the improvement of a person’s health. For the wearable technology to achieve this, there should be safeguards to protect the information from unauthorized access, and only the authorized list of people should have access to the data. When the manufacturers of wearable devices take these recommendations into consideration, more people would be willing to incorporate the technology into their lives, hence improving their health.
Wearable technology has a variety of applications in the medical field including the monitoring of physical activities as they have sensors that facilitate biochemical, physiological, and motion sensing. When an individual has a particular condition or issues with mobility, and they require constant supervision, there would be no need of consulting a physician all the time if a wearable device is available. The reviewed literature has shed light on the most relevant areas in wearable technologies, and it has indicated some of the drawbacks associated with the use of such devices. However, the existing knowledge does not explain the role that practitioners may play in ensuring that their clients’ data is safe. Future studies on wearable technologies should address how patients can manage the information that they retrieve from their devices with minimal intervention from health care providers.
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