Wearable technology and the resultant increase in the potential data they can provide continues to spread and evolve. During the holiday season I saw a large increase in the advertising of virtual reality headsets, especially during the Super Bowl. Several commercials during the big game showed grandparents engaging with a virtual reality headset – some with their family around them watching. They were all having very unique and powerful experiences. It was a poignant reminder to me about the far reaching potential of new technology – not only for entertainment, as the commercials were claiming, but for how we could use this type of technology with health care in the future.
An August 2016 article on CNET by Sarah Tew talked about that very thing. She talked about a pair of wireless earbuds, created by Jabra an intelligent sound solution manufacturer. The earbuds can interface with a HIPAA compliant software and provide health data about a patient's fitness level. The earbuds were provided to certain patients (along with a fitness plan) with a primary focus to use the information to treat obesity, cancer and diabetes. The data provided was shared with the physician and the patient at the same time – everyone had the same data at the same time to help make informed decisions going forward! Wearable devices continue to provide an increasingly strong potential for data collection and are evolving from simple watches to ear buds, and in some rarer instances, some devices that are implanted beneath the skin. The potential uses for wearables seems to only be limited by our imagination.
Physicians will need to continue to explore ways to engage patients and help them become an integral part of their own health. As patients feel more engaged and responsible for themselves, in tandem with an ability to actively view and manage "real time" data, they could become more motivated to keep performing activities that move them toward or continue to support a healthy lifestyle.