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Pros and Cons of Wearable Technologies

Pros and Cons of Wearable Technology in Healthcare
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Wearable Healthcare Technologies

With more than 8 billion subscribers worldwide and over 1 billion in the United States alone, high-tech mobility is on the rise. The healthcare industry is soaking up new innovations such as electronic health records, tele-health apps, and wearable technologies in order to improve efficiency and health care quality. Wearable technologies are estimated to reach $100 billion by 2023, but for now, they are slowly beginning to evolve into different sub-categories. Uses of wearable technology in healthcare are numerous: to reduce medical errors, reduce costs, increase patient engagement, and much more. Such innovations promise great advantages; however, critics are pointing out that they also bring about a few disadvantages. So what are the pros and cons of wearable technologies?

Pros of Wearable Technologies

  • Hands-free experience – Wearables can receive incoming calls, messages and more, all the while allowing the user to remain ‘hands-free’. This gives the user the opportunity to perform a certain action and receive visual assistance, without having to constantly check their phone.
  • Convenience & portability – Wearables allow instant access to medical information and resources, as well as a selection of health apps. Medical students can receive, save, and carry with them all the information that they require on a simple small device.
  • Personalized information – Several wearables provide the option of customization according to the user’s personal health and fitness information. This, in turn, allows the user to be better aware of his or her health and maintain it to the best of their ability.
  • Improved clinical decision-making – Wearables are the one of the most useful tools when it comes to supporting clinical decisions. Physicians can use these tools for looking up multiple medical sources and gaining access to drug reference databases for improved knowledge and understanding. Moreover, wearables can be used to improve disease diagnosis and to create and implement appropriate treatment plans.
  • Greater accuracy – Wearables allow convenient tracking of a user’s health and exercise habits for improving their overall well-being. Moreover, they have been found to improve the accuracy of both patient documentation and disease diagnosis. More accurate findings in terms of symptoms, side effects, diagnostic coding, and medication safety can lead to reduced medical errors.
  • Improved efficiency – Research suggests that wearables help physicians to be more efficient in their work tasks. According to a survey conducted back in 2013 by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, several physicians revealed that they believe health information technology can improve clinical practice efficiency. Moreover, it has been noted that wearable technologies allow for greater quality of patient documentation, reduced medical errors, rapid access to medical information, increased workflow, more efficient clinical decision-making, and above all, improved patient care.
  • Improved productivity – Wearables help streamline workflow and increase productivity levels. In fact, physicians have reported that the use of mobile devices during patient rounds have helped them spend less time gaining access to data and recording it. This, in turn, has given them more time to spend with patients and improve quality care. Health-related apps have also increased the productivity of pharmacists by allowing them to access drug information quickly and record their findings, thereby resulting in more detailed documentation.

Cons of Wearable Technologies

  • Battery life – Battery life is one of the most crucial challenges of wearables. Most devices only work in combination with a smartphone. This means that at least two devices need to be charged and failure to charge one results in the inability to use the other.
  • Data accuracy – While most wearables allow for customization of a user’s data, in general, they need to be better developed for actual accuracy and flexibility. Sensors need to be properly positioned and data needs to be better analyzed.
  • Theft – Wearables need to be developed further in order to limit their use and prevent theft. For instance, touch screen and voice detection need to be genuinely secure, especially for physicians using such devices, in order to prevent access and leakage of private patient information.
  • Privacy – There have been a few issues surrounding the privacy of wearables. Today, technology makes it possible to record everything a user says and does. For this reason, most users are still skeptical about how their privacy can be ensured.
  • Excessive information – Sensors within wearables are mainly focused on providing users with information; however, it won’t be long until technology reaches a point where users’ information is collected. This raises an issue with technology breaching users’ personal information.
  • Security – Electronic health records raise potential privacy issues. While it has been estimated that hospitals can save up to 30% in administrative costs by using wearable devices, this may lead to possible unauthorized access to private patient information.
  • App reliability – To date, there are over 15,000 health-related apps available. While such apps are necessary in order to raise health awareness and patient engagement, lack of a physician’s direction during app development may not prove as useful. In order to enhance efficiency, it is necessary to focus on the knowledge and expertise that only a healthcare professional can provide.
  • App integration – As more and more health-related apps are developed, this puts a damper on the health industry’s current systems. The matter is that different facilities have different technological capacities. With countless apps being developed, facilities are having a difficult time keeping up, let alone integrating new system within their current one.

While wearable healthcare technologies promise improvements in clinical services and the reduction in financial costs, most devices are still in the process of development. However, as technology has nowhere to go but up, the possibilities of mobile healthcare apps and wearable technologies are endless.

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