Patients turned to telehealth for treatment when the COVID-19 pandemic began to limit opportunities for physical contact. A report published by Yahoo Finance revealed that in 2020 alone, approximately 9 million virtual consultations were recorded.
Because of the rapidly expanding demand for virtual care, the telehealth market reached a market size of 144.38 billion USD (INR 11.3 trillion) by 2020. It is further expected to reach some 636.38 billion USD (INR 48.6 trillion) by 2028.
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Wearable technology goes hand-in-hand with telehealth. As stated in our article “the smartwatch benefits?” wearable technology can collect health information in real-time, including blood pressure, blood oxygen level, temperature, calories burned, sleep data, and physical activity.
Most consumers who buy wearables for health purposes do so specifically to track their fitness goals. Still, these devices have also proven useful in helping healthcare providers gather data from their patients remotely.
Ultimately, the innovative technologies in today’s wearables can help make healthcare faster, more convenient, and more affordable for patients. Below, we’ll cover some specific ways wearables and telehealth can improve the future of healthcare.
Telehealth Offers Flexibility
Let’s say there’s a man named John. John has been experiencing knee pain recently and suspects that he might have some form of joint or bone injury.
However, John lives in a rural area, and it would take him an hour and a half to get to the nearest specialist. John works full-time and cannot make the trip without skipping work, thus forfeiting income and/or vacation time.
Before the emergence of telehealth, John would have had a difficult time getting treated. However, with telehealth, John would no longer need to miss work to see a qualified physician.
And since he doesn’t have to travel, he has the freedom to get treatment from orthopedists or rheumatologists that live even further away –– potentially expanding his capacity to get quality care.
As illustrated by this hypothetical story, telehealth provides flexibility, which can significantly help people who have busy schedules or live far away from healthcare providers.
However, there are still some limits. For instance, in the U.S., some medical licenses are specific to states. Virtual health company Wheel’s look at Virginia clinicians specifically notes that mental health professionals licensed in that state can only treat patients who reside there.
In addition, the rheumatology platform MDEdge highlighted Florida and California early in the pandemic for waiving border restrictions on practice –– which was a positive step but spoke to area restrictions on rheumatology as well.
The bottom line is that different states, regions, and countries can have different licensing requirements –– which means that telehealth isn’t wholly flexible or universal. But as the story of “John” illustrates, even greater flexibility within a particular region can make a significant difference.
Telehealth and Wearables Are Affordable
In the aforementioned hypothetical, seeing a physician remotely helps John cut down costs. Because John no longer needs to travel to get treatment, he doesn’t have to spend money on gas or other commuting fares. Nor does he have to skip work and lose income.
Telehealth consultations can often cost less than in-person appointments since the physician won’t need to pay for medical facilities.
Wearables, too, are becoming affordable. Though products from premium brands like Apple can still cost a great deal, there are many cheaper alternatives in the market.
In India, brands like Mi Band 4 and GOQii have become popular because they offer the basic features users need at the affordable price of INR 2000. Users often purchase these cheaper alternatives to try their hand at wearable technology before investing in higher-end brands.
Wearables Give Providers A Clearer Picture Of Health
As mentioned above, wearables can record health data in real time, and patients can thus easily and instantly deliver their health data to their physicians. In 2019, Microsoft Healthcare’s head of innovation, Jim Weinstein, launched IMAGINECARE, a project aimed at improving employees’ health with chronic health through 24/7 monitoring.
IMAGINECARE used smartphone sensors and Microsoft tools to collect healthcare data from participants. With the help of IMAGINECARE and intermittent doctor’s appointments, 50% of participants got their blood pressure to a healthy level within just a few months.
The 24/7 monitoring capabilities gave providers a clearer picture of each participant’s health. With data from wearables, providers can more easily identify patterns in a person’s health, which can help them assign more accurate diagnoses and more targeted treatments.
Experts say that these processes can be improved further with machine learning technology. In the future, machine learning programs might be able to interpret more significant amounts of health data. After organizing the information, the programs will be able to present the results to physicians. This way, physicians can treat and diagnose their patients even more timely and accurately.
Wearables Can Reduce Trips To The Doctor
Certain treatments require active participation from the physician. However, some patients, especially older adults, can sometimes forget to adhere to their treatments upon returning home.
Fortunately, wearables can easily provide reminders for medications and care regimens, thereby promoting adherence. When patients follow their treatment plans closely, complications are less likely to arise. This can thus reduce the number of trips patients need to make to see doctors in person.
Aside from notifying patients of their treatment plans, wearables can also encourage patients to pursue their fitness goals. By promoting regular exercise, wearables can improve users’ overall health, making them less likely to develop new health conditions.
All in all, it’s clear that health monitoring and telecommunications innovations have helped make quality care more accessible. By offering flexibility, affordability, and accuracy, wearables and telehealth will significantly improve the future of healthcare.
Saneesh VS is a tech and fitness enthusiast. He has been reviewing smartwatches and fitness trackers for the past few years and is passionate about it. He writes about the latest news in the industry, helpful tips, and buying guides. You can find him working out or spending time with his family when he’s not writing or reviewing gadgets.