There has been a lot of attention paid to wearables over the past year. Consumers are embracing them in record numbers, and manufacturers are increasingly focusing on improving their health tracking capabilities as COVID-19 has demonstrated an untapped need. As a result, wearables are poised to transform the health care industry pretty significantly.
Regardless of where you stand politically, there is no denying the fact that the spread of the coronavirus could have been managed better if there had been widespread monitoring of vital signs by the population at large—especially in key areas where COVID-19 appeared early. This is true not just in the U.S., but around the world. Early detection would have allowed officials to isolate infected individuals and might have stopped the rampant spread of the virus, preventing it from reaching every corner of the globe.
Manufacturers of popular wearables, such as Apple and Fitbit, began to realize that the technology to make tracking already existed and was, in fact, right under their nose. Or on their wrist, as the case may be. The biggest issue revolved around privacy rights stemming from all this user-generated data. In order to prevent misuse, legislation must be passed enabling use of this information in a responsible manner.
There are concerns, of course. Some people fear a mad rush to the doctor every time their smartwatch shows an elevated temperature reading or other cause for concern. This is easily addressed through the creation of algorithms that would look for anomalies; only individuals requiring specialized attention would need to visit a doctor.
Wearable technology isn’t infallible. It will never take the place of an in-person visit to a health professional. However, the vast amounts of data gathered 24/7 are impossible to ignore; working to reduce standard deviation errors and better anomaly detection will create immense benefit. This alone will provide the spark for future development and research and help advance medical science. As the technology improves, wearables fit in perfectly with a health care future that will emphasize a holistic approach to diagnosis while focusing on data collection, monitoring and prevention.