Safety and health have always remained the top priority for everyone since the dawn of time. This focus can easily be seen in every industry engaged with human-centric products like automobiles, clothing, lighting, mobiles, wearable technology and more. From recording our circadian rhythms to monitoring our heart rates, directing us to hydrate and take brakes and more, wearables have become an integral part of our lives.
Improving health and reducing healthcare costs
Wearables are mostly touted as a fashion accessory or a smart wearable that can help you read messages or respond to calls, but a lesser-known advantage of these devices is the reduced healthcare burden of wearers. According to the WHO, regular exercise can reduce mortality risks by up to 30%. This is accomplished by maintaining sleep regimens and exercise timings along with hydration and other fitness-related alerts that help individuals stay fitter. Wearables also prompt users to reduce screen time, helping in controlling eye fatigue.
Reduced insurance costs
Many insurance companies have begun to give discounts on premiums if the daily step count of individuals exceeds 10,000 regularly for an entire year. This helps the individuals get fitter by walking at least 10,000 steps per day and has the added advantage of discounts on their insurance renewal premiums.
Fitness trackers have built-in sensors that help them gather a lot of data that can be used by the ER to save your life. As watches get smarter, they leverage the power of telemetry to enhance the amount of information they gather and can remotely send this to your healthcare provider.
Assistive solutions for wearables like AliveCor’s KardiaBand can take a medical-grade ECG that can be used to predict heart attacks in individuals. These solutions, coupled with the power of telemetry can help caregivers and ER techs save lives in cases of emergency and have the potential to even receive notifications to dispatch ambulances to watch locations if the wearer is in distress.
Initial wearable devices were mostly aimed at fitness tracking or displaying messages, with hardly any emphasis given to situational monitoring such as fall detection and medical emergencies. Medical emergencies are times when most wearers might not be fully coherent, so using a mobile device to make a distress call is nearly impossible for them.
This occurs most commonly with the elderly and the invalid, making it important for them to send a message across to emergency services or their loved ones if they have had a fall or another medical emergency.
The latest generation of smartwatches from major manufacturers like Apple and Samsung offer ECG and Afib notifications, along with fall detection that sends out distress messages with location details if no response is received from users for a set time duration.
The fall detection feature was initially launched in the Apple Watch and has already saved many lives around the world. Recently, a couple hiking in the woods in New Jersey fell off a cliff. The Apple Watch detected the fall and notified authorities along with a location map of the watch, enabling their subsequent rescue.
An Apple watch user was woken up by alerts from his watch about irregular heartbeats and elevated heart rates during the night. As he was able to reach the ER, they found that all 4 arteries of his heart were blocked, requiring immediate surgery to correct, saving his life. Another 24-year old from Australia was diagnosed with a hole in his heart after his Apple Watch alerted him about irregular heartbeats, causing him to immediately visit the ER for a checkup.
Similar incidents were noted by an individual who bought a fitness tracker from FitBit just to partake in his company’s fitness challenge, only to find out that he had irregular heartbeats. This led him to get himself checked, finding out that he had a leaking mitral valve that had caused him to get Afibs.
Companies like Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, Garmin, and many others have gotten one step ahead of just measuring heart rates and steps. They have sensors that check if you have been sleeping well and if you may potentially suffer from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disorder in which individuals stop breathing multiple times during the night and can potentially lead to heart conditions. Watches that monitor your sleep and SP02 are beginning to detect sleep apnea and have started alerting users to undergo a sleep study, helping them get therapy before things get worse.
As watches get smarter by the day, they lay greater emphasis on wearer health than user engagement. This has caused them to become health monitors for wearers, helping them stay fitter and get to ERs before problematic conditions turn into life-threatening situations or even notify emergency services if they are in distress. Wearables are an excellent example of how technology can be used to pre-emptively save lives, without the hassle of going to a hospital.