Wearable technology in healthcare, in the widest sense, has been used for a very long time. If we loosely define healthcare wearable technology (HWT) as something you put on for health reasons, the pelts worn by prehistoric hominidae to protect them from the cold (hence illnesses resulting from exposition to cold), were HWT devices. But I admit it is far-fetched. To put it in other words, the idea of wearing technology to improve one’s health is not new.
Leaping forward a few thousand years, ABPM devices for example, have been around for quite some time (see here for example). More recently, pacemakers and wearable diabetes related devices have been available to patients (see here for example).
The ever decreasing cost and size of computing technology and portable energy sources along with their ever increasing performances has contributed significantly to the development of HWT devices, and this ongoing improvement, to which I see no near term limit, will only accelerate their development.
Indeed, many international events, exhibitions and conferences are partially or even solely dedicated to healthcare information technology. Big and small companies alike are devoting resources to developing HWTs, including companies not historically involved in healthcare. Notable examples of such companies are Jawbone or Fitbit, which are developing activity and fitness trackers.
One of the main current focus of research and development in the field of HWT is sensing/diagnostic, with devices that are essentially sensors measuring and reporting a variety of health parameters, like heart rate, movement, sleep, blood pressure, etc. These devices will greatly help in answering the infamous question your physician always asks: “on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your (whatever clinical sign or symptom your physician is trying to evaluate)”. This question is crucial in making the correct diagnosis and therefore is at the basis of the proper treatment for the patient. Xprize organised the Nokia Sensing XChallenge, which awarded a total of $2.25 million in prizes in 2013 and 2014. Medica, the largest annual healthcare exhibition worldwide, hosts many forums and conferences devoted to healthcare and information technology, and even specifically to HWT.
As always, comments, questions, feedback is welcome.