How wearable devices are yielding healthcare innovations

 In Medical Product Design

Medical professionals are still finding out the best ways to use wearable medical devices as part of clinical practice. Issues like ensuring that these products meet high standards for accuracy and finding the means to store, share and protect sensitive still present challenges. Nonetheless, wearables continue to push forward with fresh ideas for gathering and presenting information vital the well-being of users.

Current limitations and future possibilities

"Continuing technological advancements will lead to important insights."

Wearable medical products are still largely associated with the fitness trackers that drove widespread adoption among health enthusiasts looking to check their personal progress, rather than collect actionable medical data. However, signs are emerging of how continuing technological advancements will lead to these types of devices providing important insights and taking an important place in care. Even as the future of wearable medical devices begins to take shape, though, it's important to bear in mind both the strengths and weaknesses of current consumer products.

A study conducted at Stanford University of Medicine explored what types of information commercially available fitness trackers can be expected to measure accurately. Out of the seven activity trackers tested by the researchers, six recorded heart rate with a margin of error within 5 percent. However, none gave precise readings for calorie expenditure, indicating these products are still not providing as much meaningful health information as users might think.

Driving forward new ideas in healthcare

Though consumer wearable devices may not yet provide the accuracy in reading and the highly specific data formats demanded for clinical practice, new product design and development is still revealing tremendous possibilities. Products are revealing a wealth of uses, though further innovations will still need the refinement that comes from a robust development process and careful scrutiny by medical experts. For instance, a report from Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry pointed out that the biometric sensor systems used in consumer wearable devices can detect atrial fibrillation.

At the same time medical device design is taking cues from a shifting market, as in the case of a wearable device intended to monitor kidney function that recently won the Merseyside Innovation Award. Developed by IF Sensing, the product uses a blood and pain-free extraction technique to track patients living with chronic kidney disease with potential for cutting the time transplant recipients must spend in the hospital. Wearables like this one demonstrate the possibilities for innovative product design to advance a variety of medical procedures.

Medical product engineering and design continues to press forward on both the consumer and medical sides. Manufacturers can take inspiration from the market in fitness trackers by applying new ideas and sleek looks, while putting devices through the long processes necessary to meet the standards of healthcare professionals and the FDA.


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