Wearable Medical Devices
The Future of Wearapeutics™
There is a great deal of potential for medical wearables to transform healthcare. From wearables that diagnose or monitor conditions to devices that deliver a specific therapeutic drug with increased precision and efficiency, “wearapeutics”™ are poised to drive growth and innovation in the medical device and diagnostics world.
Wearapeutics are smart, connected medical devices which combine digital health with consumer friendly wearables. Typically worn on the body, Wearapeutics are sensor-based, devices which can detect, monitor and/or deliver a medical therapy.
Examples of these applications include the OmniPod insulin patch pump by Insulet, smart pills which track patient adherence by Proteus, the wearable injectors by Unilife, and eSkin thin, flexible sensor patches by VivaInk which can be worn directly on the body.
The most basic wearable medical devices to date have been concentrated in the area of activity and exercise monitoring. While the medical benefit of additional exercise is undisputed, the medical establishment is still working out the best way to capitalize on the data created by these devices.
As noted in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, one person found his Fitbit Charge HR to be a possible lifesaver when he had to go to the hospital after a seizure. During treatment, he developed an abnormal heart rhythm, but doctors didn’t know, based on the patient’s memory of the seizure, exactly when the arrhythmia started. This was critical information to determine the course of the treatment. If the arrhythmia started before the seizure, it could mean bigger issues for his heart, but if it happened in conjunction with the stroke, it would be safer to ‘shock’ his heart back to its normal rate. After looking at the Fitbit data on his smartphone, emergency room doctors determined that the increase in heart rate was directly linked to the time of his seizure, meaning that resetting the heart rhythm was the safest thing to do at that moment. The patient survived. This is an example of a consumer device providing data which was medically useful in an emergency room setting.
Looking forward, there is ongoing interest and growth in the area of Wearapeutics, actually administering a therapy or a drug to a patient using a wearable device. The benefits of wearapeutics include better patient compliance better health outcomes, and an enhanced quality of life.
Key issues to consider in the development of medical wearables with connectivity include patient privacy and security concerns and compliance to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to ensure that physicians and medical professionals feel comfortable recommending these wearapeutics to their patients.
Wearable medical devices worn close, on or under the skin need to be manufactured with biocompatible and/or stretchable materials. Biocompatible materials are designed to interact with living tissue for purposes of long-term implants or minimally invasive medical sensors. Some are made out of stretchable semiconductor technologies such as elastomer-polymer.
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Learn more about Flex’s offerings in wearapeutics and connected health at our Medical Industry Expertise page.