I’ve been pretty closely following the various wearable options that have been entering the tech marketplace as part of my mobile health coverage. The most recent coverage is of the Apple Watch that was just announced. It’s a fascinating market and one that’s just barely getting started. It includes everything from smartwatches to eyeware (led by Google Glass) to contact lenses to fitness trackers to even your smartphone and more.
As I think about the wearable marketplace, I was thinking about how these wearables will apply in the hospital setting. I’d divide wearables impact on hospitals into two main categories: enterprise wearables and consumer (patient) wearables.
In the enterprise wearables space, I think we’ve seen the most traction with Google Glass. There are a whole plethora of eyeware computing companies that are using Google Glass in enterprise applications in hospitals. I’d say that most of the solutions revolve around telemedicine like applications, but we also see a few that are starting to integrate with other outside data and displaying that to the doctor. We’ve also seen a few applications where Google Glass has been used to document something for the patient. I’m interested to see how these technologies evolve over time. The tests of all of these things are so early that it’s hard to say if they are must have features for every hospital organization.
I have yet to see an enterprise smartwatch implementation. I expect that the first implementation will likely be in the healthcare communication space. One challenge in hospitals is definitely around hospital communication. Access to various messages on your watch could make accessing them easier. I’m not so bullish on this idea because it’s not that much easier than just pulling out your smart phone.
In the enterprise wearables world, what does seem clear to me is that these applications will have to integrate with the legacy systems. There are a few implementations (ie. Telemedicine applications) where this isn’t completely necessary, but the applications will have limited benefit to a hospital without a great integration with the other hospital systems.
I’m much more bullish on the various patient wearables. Many of these wearables were designed for consumers, so it makes sense that they would work well for consumers. Take for example, a smart watch. What a perfect way to track a diabetic and remind them of appropriate treatment. I’ve seen this done with smartphones and that’s pretty smooth, but a watch is even easier. Done right, it can be made so easy, even my mother could do it (no offense to my mother, but she’s not very technical). I love that type of monitoring and tracking that could be done with patients and hopefully reduce hospital readmissions and ensure care plans are followed. I haven’t seen anyone doing it yet, so maybe that’s an opportunity waiting for you.
I’m less excited about eyeware computing with patients. There might be some edge cases, but I haven’t seen or heard of any great patient focused applications with Google Glass. If you know of some, I’d love to hear of any.
Those are a few of my thoughts on wearables in the hospital. I’m sure there are plenty of implementations and technologies I’m missing. It’s a rapidly changing area. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s happening with wearables in hospitals or things you think could or should happen with them.