Are wearables starting to be accepted as medical-grade tools?

When they first hit the market, wearable health devices were little more than toys, at least from a physician’s perspective.

For several years, doctors rejected the use of such tools (sorry early Fitbit, Garmin, and Whoop adopters) in their practices. They weren’t convinced wearables were measuring health metrics accurately—and what’s more, they were reluctant to add more data to the torrent already pouring into their practices.

However, consumers have grown more attached to using wearables to track stats and keep themselves well. And the percent of US users climbed from 9% in 2014 to 33% in 2018, according to Accenture. With ordinary people spending $300+ out of pocket for an Apple Watch, it’s hard to argue that smart wearables have reached the mainstream.

Aware of this upsurge of patient interest, medical device makers are beginning to offer new types of wearables technology that look and behave like consumer wearables but also deliver high-quality medical data doctors can use to manage patients remotely.  

Here are some ways in which these consumer-friendly, doctor-approved medical wearables are likely to evolve and grow in importance to the care process over the next few years.

Supporting day-to-day clinical decisions

Next-generation health trackers are more trustworthy than the consumer health bands that popped up a decade ago, with a growing number receiving FDA clearances. As a result, physicians are able to use the data they generate to make small but important tweaks to a patient’s care, such as incremental changes to their medication regimen. In addition, clinical decision support can be a big help to doctors when specialized care is important but difficult to deliver, such as managing heart failure or monitoring pregnant women who live in rural areas.

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