Oleksiy Mark - Fotolia

Are attitudes toward smartwatches for healthcare changing?

Some healthcare providers remain skeptical of the use of smartwatches and other wearables for clinical use, but consumers are increasingly adopting the devices for health reasons.

The idea that clinicians can use a new type of health information collected from wearables like smartwatches is gaining interest and traction in the marketplace. In fact, smartwatches are in line to become the next most popular mobile technology consumers will adopt. According to Statista, worldwide sales of smartwatches are forecast to reach 141 million in 2018 -- up from 5 million in 2014. This offers a unique opportunity around the use of smartwatches for healthcare. These devices can track meaningful data that allow healthcare professionals to monitor and capture information about heart rate, activity level, fall detection and blood oxygen level.

One feature some smartwatches have is the ability to use specific algorithms to detect abnormal heart rate using specific algorithms and alert the user. Other examples include fall detection, which can initiate a call to emergency services, and fitness or activity feedback as part of a fitness plan that requires the user to report their fitness activities. Another key factor of smartwatches for healthcare is their ability to connect through Bluetooth with other medical devices that can use the smartwatches to upload data to online data repositories.

While the data being tracked by smartwatches most of the time does not make it into a patient's health record, physicians and care providers can certainly recommend the technology as it is at a point where there are visible benefits that patients can gain from it -- especially those who suffer from heart disease or are at fall risk. Physicians can no longer sit by while wearables are being adopted and ignore the opportunity they provide when it comes to helping patients. Many smartwatches like the Apple Watch offer some ability around extracting and exporting data from the devices. This may be the area in which IT can determine how to efficiently capture or integrate the data collected from these devices into the patient's record to increase the adoption of wearables.

Providers who still hesitate to consider smartwatches for healthcare as a potential prescriptible device may risk being left out since the technology has proved to be mature and more than capable of accurately tracking and predicting certain health risks. Some of the ongoing hesitation around smartwatches for healthcare today from physicians and IT around suggesting smartwatches to patients is the lack of interoperability and concerns around data protection and security. An inability to capture any of the health data back into an EHR makes it too difficult to process and consume as part of the patient's record.

When it comes to smartwatches for healthcare, eventually efforts by the likes of Apple, who continue to push for direct integration with Epic and other popular EHR vendors, will create a path where device manufacturers -- even for consumer products -- recognize the need to interact with electronic health data to achieve a greater goal.

Dig Deeper on Healthcare IT systems and applications

Cloud Computing
Mobile Computing