Healthcare is undergoing dramatic change in the way care is delivered to patients. With information technology now prevalent across care settings, doors have been opened to the automation of hospital workflows, including billing, digital record management, and many areas where artificial intelligence (AI) can play a role, most notably in radiology. Combined with new wearable technologies, these advances in connectivity and software have the potential to transform care by, for example, allowing remote monitoring of patients in rural areas, where health data can be transmitted wirelessly through the Cloud to experts for clinical interpretation. In Canada, this is particularly important for Northern communities who have limited access to the healthcare facilities and expertise, with patients often being transferred for hundreds of miles to receive a diagnosis. Wireless devices that can monitor a patient’s heart rhythm, liver function, blood pressure, etc. will have a significant impact on the distribution of care and the ability to detect disease earlier, leading to lower morbidity rates. And, in 2019, we can see many such devices hitting the market, leading improvements in healthcare through innovation.
In 2018, Omron Healthcare announced their FDA-approved wearable blood pressure monitor, HeartGuide. The device uses an inflatable cuff within the watch band to take blood pressure readings and allows users to schedule readings, e.g., while sleeping.
Apple’s new Series 4 Watch, launched in 2018, can detect falls, generate alerts and, as of 2019, detect heart rhythm. The new ECG (electrocardiogram) app shows users the electrical activity of their heart, which can be used to diagnose heart failure.
Kenkodo is a personalized metabolomics service that provides users with a device to perform at-home blood sampling. These samples are then sent by mail to Kenkodo’s lab where they analyze the metabolites present in the blood at high accuracy using high-resolution mass spectroscopy. The idea is to give users an understanding of how their lifestyle is affecting their metabolome.
Zephyr’s BioPatch is a device that uses electrodes to stick onto a user’s chest and measures respiratory rate, heart rate, calories burned and posture. The device is tailored for athletes who want to better understand their conditioning and the effect of a workout on their body.
The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre is developing OurNotes, an initative that allows patients, caregivers and providers to jointly create clinical notes and care plans and append them to electronic health records. This is an extension of OpenNotes, an online platform that gives patients access to their medical records via a secure portal called PatientSite.
As we continue to innovate towards better design, more capable instrumentation, faster wireless communication, and stronger data security, the application of wearable technologies in healthcare is likely to increase rapidly, raising questions over the safety of bypassing physicians. In this new frontier in medicine, big questions will be addressed that identify the best areas of impact for new technologies, and those areas where traditional scientific rigour and experience are not so easy to out-source.