Wearing your heart

on your wrist Wearables and the future of health and wellness

Words by Tom Winstanley, head of innovation, NTT Data UK B

y 2022, the number of connected wearable devices worldwide is

expected to reach 1.1 billion, within sectors ranging from education to the military. Enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables offer a convenient means to monitor people and processes, conveying the data that is captured in real time. As these devices continue to proliferate, and as data is used in increasingly exciting ways, wearables are set to impact individuals in a revolutionary step forward. Look at the healthcare industry: according to a report by Markets and Markets, the global net demand for wearable medical devices will reach $12.1 billion USD by 2022. This interest is being driven by concerns about our ability to tackle a series of serious public health issues, including: obesity, ageing populations and antibiotic resistance. In this context, wearable devices have the potential to offer a solution to effectively analyse these impediments, as wearables evolve from the periphery to the core.

EMBRACING WEARABLES Perhaps the most obvious progress has been made in monitoring and fighting chronic conditions. For example, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), worn by diabetic patients, allow doctors to view their glucose levels and take the appropriate steps to empower patients to make more informed lifestyle choices. This has the potential to ameliorate the medical industry, saving time and resources, clipping some agency onto the wrist of the patient.

Wearables have made a positive impact on improving diagnoses: patient information across various networks and regions is aggregated, tunnelled into one device. From this, medical professionals can draw conclusions that


aid with diagnoses, or treatment plans, by remotely accessing the data. As an extension of the diagnosis capabilities of wearables, health industry experts are excited about the prospects of data sourced from wearable devices to make more accurate health predictions. For example, a report by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists predicts that, in the future, wearable devices will have the potential to help doctors predict how patients will respond to chemotherapy. These are exciting developments in

themselves. And yet, policymakers are also talking about the wider, public benefit of wearable devices. Health insurance providers, such as Aetna, believe that wearables have an observable impact on bettering population health; the devices have a marked effect on improving patient engagement with healthcare and treatment schemes, which can only be a positive step.

BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN PATIENT AND DOCTOR The healthcare industry is not alone in embracing wearable technology, and tech vendors are seeing opportunities to extend their product offerings in the medical sector. To counteract the claim that these

trackers do not collect patient data accurately enough for medical diagnoses to be made, Fitbit has partnered with Google to improve the ability of its devices to share relevant data with medical professionals. This bridges the gap between patients and doctors, by improving Fitbit’s ability to share data with medical professionals in a safe, easy and secure manner. A study published in PLOS Medicine suggested that the wearable healthcare

industry needs to concentrate on ensuring that wearable technology is clinically valuable, but also consumer friendly. To create a more bespoke monitoring system that can drive tangible health improvements for users, NTT Group, in conjunction with Toray Industries, has developed a wearable material that monitors a person’s heartbeat and cardiac electrical activity in real time. Dubbed ‘Hitoe’, NTT Group’s ‘smart fabric’ is a composite material comprised of conductive nanofibres. The fabric, which can be integrated into ordinary items of clothing, enables reliable signals to be gathered from bodies in motion, transmitted to smartphones or other devices for monitoring and analysis. Hitoe has broad applications in the biometric field, such as detecting an athlete’s fatigue levels. Perhaps more pertinently, Hitoe can also measure the stress and posture of a wearer, and can capture electrocardiogram and electromyography data to help diagnose early symptoms of diseases. This can facilitate better preventative support and quicker medical care.

Healthcare must continue to motivate doctor-patient relationships. Wearable devices, such as Hitoe, are a positive step forward in helping doctors to care for their patients, whilst granting freedom to patients. Some of the bigger problems facing healthcare currently do not have a single solution. However, the appropriate and resourceful application of new technologies promises to improve medical case outcomes, while allowing professionals to work more efficiently, saving precious time, effort and resources in the future.


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