The healthcare industry is experiencing change faster than any other, and global healthcare spending is expected to reach $8.7 trillion by 2020. While many trends have come and gone with the advancement of technology, one that is bound to take off and continue growing is the use of wearable technology in the healthcare system. Between 2006 and 2013, well-known companies introduced their version of wearable technology, with Nike+, FitBit, and Google glass. In 2014, dubbed ‘the year of wearable technology’ by many, the iconic Apple watch made its first industry appearance.
Since then, the trend has continued to expand and is predicted to exceed 305 million units in 2020 alone, with an annual growth rate of 55%. While prominent companies, mainly in the fitness industry, are introducing their version of a wearable device, the healthcare industry has also tapped into the power of wearables. In fact, a recent study states that wearable technology in healthcare is expected to reach $12.1 billion by 2021. It’s clear that wearable technology is reaching all industries, including healthcare — but to take it one step further, how is this trend specifically impacting seniors?
No matter the industry, data is going to play a huge role in how we track daily trends, conduct our daily work, and even communicate. When it comes to seniors utilizing wearables, we’ll be able to track their heart rate, monitor their activity levels, and send them alerts to take medicine, allowing for more proactive care from caregivers rather than reactive care after a situation already happens.
For example, data can indicate when a senior is at risk for urinary tract infections (UTI), which are a common risk for seniors. These often occur after a 72-hour period when walking becomes increasingly painful and trips to the bathroom increase over the timeframe. Through a wearable device, caregivers can track this data and anticipate a UTI more quickly due to these trends. Additionally, through analysis of activity data, caregivers can track the potential of a senior falling, and proactively take necessary actions to avoid the fall. In turn, caregivers and families can familiarize themselves with these trends to anticipate a fall in the future, too.
For care facilities, data also means understanding larger population trends among the community—population health management. This gives caregivers the ability to pinpoint common problems and proactively create an environment that lowers risks. If multiple seniors have similar data points that signal an illness or bacteria, caregivers can quickly recognize this and take preventive action throughout the community. Whether at home or in an assisted living facility, seniors utilizing wearables allows for families, caregivers, and doctors to track daily habits and trends, and get ahead of the game should something negative occur.
Due to better medical care and people living longer, the number of consumers aged over 65 has increased to more than 656 million, or 11.5% of the population. What’s more, Accenture data shows that 17% of Americans over the 65 use wearables to track fitness or vitals such as blood pressure or heart rate, compared to 20% of Americans under the age of 65. The data builds upon the fact that more seniors are turning to wearables to have more control of their daily habits.
Wearables allow seniors to be in more control of their health and feel a sense of independence. Medication reminders allow them to not need caregivers on hand to remind them. Alerts can also remind them to take more steps, provide updates on their heart rate and blood pressure, and even give them an “always there” communication platform for any type of assistance they might need. A GPS system allows them to leave their home for a walk or a quick trip for groceries, without family members feeling worried or concerned. A wearable device provide seniors with a sense of confidence and independence.
Customizing the experience
In the future of wearables, customization will be key. Each senior is different, from their daily needs to their medication alerts and activity level. Through wearables, seniors can receive a personalized experience, allowing them—and their families—to feel peace of mind. Wearables present this opportunity, while traditional methods of healthcare are limited, based on doctor’s appointments and availability.
Features such as a one-touch call option allows users to have a two-way conversation with a live operator if they need help or have questions, providing personal assistance immediately, and adding another component to the sense of independence. Instead of turning to family members or doctors on a daily basis for help, seniors can simply seek live assistance through their wearable device. These, among other features, show the value of seniors wearing these devices.
Wearable technology will continue to be a positive and influential asset to healthcare—and not only for seniors. The industry is growing, and Gartner predicts that personal technology solutions in healthcare can aid in achieving three important goals: improve the health of the population, reduce the per capita cost of healthcare, and improve the patient experience. Additionally, with the advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, the potential for data and analytics to be even more streamlined will become a key factor as these trends continue to reach patients of all kinds.
Healthcare needs to learn from other industries on how to personalize the health care experience—similar to retail, banking, and consumer services. It essentially needs to use a personalized approach to care. With the transparency and availability to data now more than ever, it’s a simple solution to helping support seniors enjoy life independently for longer.
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