Wearables have long been adopted by consumers, and now wearable technology in healthcare is growing in popularity. Why? Because professionals like health and wellness practitioners begin to adopt wearable health trackers for their practices.
Hand-in-hand with other techniques like food journaling and Telehealth, wearable health trackers can (and do!) change the way healthcare providers practice—much to the benefit of their clients. In this blog, we’ll go over reasons why wearables might be a good fit for your practice and for your clients, and how to leverage that technology to improve client accountability.
What are Wearable Health Trackers?
Wearable health trackers are electronic devices, usually worn on a person’s wrist, that can provide users with data about their own physical health at the touch of a button. What began as a basic step tracker can now measure:
- Body temperature
- Breathing rate
- The cadence of your footsteps
- Blood pressure
- Blood oxygen levels
- Heart rate
- GPS location
Are There Any Disadvantages to Wearable Health Technology?
According to research from non-profit organization HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), manually providing data to their healthcare providers might deter someone from sharing their wearable information. The research team also noted the possibility of data inaccuracies stemming from:
- Not wearing the device properly
- Technical issues like incompatible operating systems or software bugs
- User error (someone not understanding how to operate the wearable device)
- False alarms created by the device itself
- Privacy concerns around the security of health data
What Benefits does Wearable Health Technology Provide?
Wristband sensors are now so developed that they can detect physical movement, slight directional changes, and electrical impulses traveling from your brain and through your skin. Wearable health trackers generally sync to a smartphone and/or computer app in order to allow users (and their healthcare providers) to track data like calories in/out, exercise duration, stress levels, and quality of sleep.
“We can’t manage what we can’t measure, and wearables can empower us to continuously measure our health and wellbeing and immediately take action when needed,” says Dr. Bijan Najafi, professor of surgery and director of clinical research at Baylor College of Medicine. Based on data from these wearable trackers, health and wellness professionals can help guide their clients to take the right action toward optimizing their own healthy lifestyle.
The Most Popular Wearable Tech Today
“Once only used to count steps and tell time, smartwatches have now transformed into clinically viable healthcare tools. Apple launched the Apple Heart Study app in 2017 to monitor users’ heart rhythms and alert those who are experiencing atrial fibrillation,” according to market research company Insider Intelligence.
Additionally, wearables like Apple or Garmin smartwatches let users do things they’d normally do on their phones, like send text messages, make and answer calls, and listen to music in addition to providing the health-tracking benefits of fitness trackers like a Fitbit.
How Wearables Have Improved Client Accountability
One way to improve accountability through wearable tech is when clients share the resulting healthcare data collected by wearable with their healthcare providers. Collecting this information is easier than ever when the data is easily uploaded via secure integration from device to practitioner. Because wearable technology collects users’ personal health and exercise data, it becomes easier for health and wellness professionals to gather information relevant to their clients’ treatment. This data provides a solid base to help them form, and maintain, healthier habits that can then be incorporated into their clients’ lifestyles.
How Wearables Can Increase Client Motivation
While wearable health monitors aren’t new (pacemakers, insulin pumps, and glucose monitors come to mind), wearable technology that incentivizes healthy behavior still feels futuristic to many. But a future in which we take our health habits (literally) into our own hands is a welcome one!
Simply put: people are more inclined to alter their behavior if they know they are being watched, or simply if they are tracking their numbers. “When someone gets a new wearable that can track their exercise, eating and sleep habits—they are more likely to perform better for a time,” says a senior director at HIMSS. Or, sometimes people subconsciously change their behavior in response to tracking their progress, resulting in small improvements over time. And, people are excited to see the results of their experiments. The psychology of behavior change has shown that improvements are more likely to last when they’re implemented “little by little.” If people are tracking their own statistics, they’ll then be more likely to make unconscious changes to their behavior in a positive direction.
This effect is not permanent, however, so health & wellness professionals must help their clients get those healthy new habits to become permanent behaviors. Journaling, for example, can add another step of accountability that provides health & wellness professionals (and their clients) with valuable insights that they can turn into personalized action plans.
The Benefits of Your Client Using a Wearable
Wearable healthcare trackers can be programmed to help users set health goals and track the daily decisions they make on the path toward reaching those goals. When clients are making healthy lifestyle choices, when they program their goals into their wearable and get daily reminders from a healthcare provider, everybody wins.
Integration with Electronic Health Records
Wearable devices will play an even bigger role in health practices going forward. Many clients already track their activity throughout the day. With a wearable health tracker integration to a practice’s software system, health & wellness professionals can gain access to a wealth of information that is already tracked by their clients. Clients with a smartwatch or Fitbit, for example, can integrate it to their practitioner’s portal to automatically track their heart rates, sleep, and activity levels. This information is then added to their Lifestyle Journals. Fitness trackers help keep clients accountable if they can track their data and easily measure progress, especially if they can sync their data into a client journal, for example.
What Does the Future of Wearable Health Tech Look Like?
Someone can have the motivation and a reminder to do something healthy, but not the power to do so at that moment. A smartwatch can tell you to sleep eight hours a night, but it can’t help you with your insomnia.
“A person can’t walk out of a work meeting because they get an alarm on their device that says they haven’t had enough steps in an hour,” said Robert Havasy of HIMSS.
What is the solution for these real-time problems? Ideally, deeper integration between wearables and the systems users are already accustomed to accessing multiple times every day. Imagine if your wearable could give you a list of the healthiest options from nearby restaurants at lunchtime, on a day when it knew you had back-to-back meetings scheduled. Or if it knew you had a 15-minute break, and notified you that if you walked between two nearby locations a certain number of times you would then achieve your “step goal” for that day. As technology continues to advance, the possibilities for how wearable technology can be integrated into health & wellness practices have the potential to advance right along with it.
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