May 24, 2022
A greater emphasis on recommendations, better clinical integration and more accessibility are the changes that ought to be in store, the experts say.
Chief product officer at WHOOP
Too many wearable companies focus on bells and whistles on the device itself, assuming more features or more sensors is what makes their product desirable. What makes wearable technology great is the opportunity to actually change lives by improving health, increasing fitness and enhancing performance. Whether we actually see it or not over the next five years, the change we should see is a greater emphasis on the insights and recommendations generated by wearable technology, rather than ever-larger piles of charts and graphs. Wearables allow people to be in tune with their physiologies beyond what their innate senses allow. Satisfying our curiosity isn’t enough. To be useful, companies need to do the hard work to translate this enriched connection to the body into a coaching platform that drives real behavior change: better sleep habits, more frequent movement, greater mindfulness and so on. The promise and the opportunity of wearables is to inspire and empower us to be better versions of ourselves.
CEO at OURA
Continuous data drives insights and personalization: Easy, consumable insights powered by pro sensors and continuous monitoring will broaden the quantified life to the mainstream. Continuous data powered by frictionless, longer battery life and smaller batteries will enable wear everywhere form factors to create meaningful comparisons to your baseline and cohorts, to aid personalization to the health needs/life stage of the user. Data analysis and machine learning by sophisticated software systems will surface surprising insights for increasingly discrete and smaller populations versus health care by averages.
More usage drives insights across the spectrum of health needs: Health consciousness and agency among consumers will continue to accelerate. Instead of singular "need states" like sleep, fitness, diet, aging or stress, wearables and accompanying software will enable metrics, insights and interventions based on interactions between need states: for example, recovery and the impact on training, sleep and the impact on mental health, diet and the impact on stress or rest and the impact on fertility. Much of the science hasn't been explored because continuous data hasn't been available yet.
There's room for complementary form factors. General-purpose devices will continue to dominate on the wrist, but will coexist with purpose-built, companion solutions that are tuned to the specific needs of users.
Users will take charge of their own data. Decentralized data storage, access and encryption (part of Web3) will enable easier sharing of health insights, status and data with doctors and payers, making individuals the point of aggregation and in control of their own data.
President at Hinge Health
Wearables, along with the integration of computer vision, are important areas of healthcare advancements. Wearables particularly are critical to building new approaches to pain management that don’t rely on unnecessary drugs and surgery.
Recent breakthroughs in wearable technology offer fresh hope to revolutionize back and joint pain care with non-invasive and non-addictive pain relief – reducing the risk of opioid use and the downside of crippling surgical costs. Alongside promising applications for pain management, wearables are expanding opportunities for how we measure pain or the severity of an injury, relying on data to improve diagnosis and develop new treatments.
As we continue to push the boundaries of innovation with wearables, we also need to recognize opportunities created by advancements in motion capture technology – commonly known for its filmmaking and sports applications – that have immense potential to transform digital MSK care. With just a mobile phone camera, motion capture can go beyond sensors to detect a patient’s ‘finger motions’ as well as to measure a wide range of full-body exercises that can inform the therapy experience.
With longer life expectancy and an aging population, the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain will grow further. And wearables are going to be an integral part of pain management solutions in the future.
David E. Albert
Founder and chief medical officer at AliveCor
The greatest challenge and opportunity for wearables over the next five years will be integrating the data these devices provide into the care of patients who use them. Only in this way will the full potential of wearables be realized. To achieve this will require clinical validation of the data and AI solutions that distill vast quantities of wearable data into actionable clinical insights that can help improve patient outcomes. This in turn will require significant investment from the industry in conducting extensive clinical testing, not only to support regulatory requirements but also to convince physicians of the accuracy of the data, and payers of its value. AliveCor is way ahead of this curve, with over 170 peer-reviewed publications regarding the clinical value of our solutions and the development of our Kardia AI, based on over 150 million ECGs dating back 10 years. This robust body of evidence is unmatched in the industry and stands as a gold standard in personal ECG validation.
Vice president, managing director of Health at Magic Leap
One of the long-term advantages of wearable technology like AR is that it brings data and connectivity to deskless workers who have traditionally not had that access. We believe AR will be deeply integrated into the workflow processes of health care companies, as AR can serve as the PC for frontline workers. That’s not to say this evolution will be easy — AR still requires incredible innovation to solve for the many challenges of merging the physical and digital worlds into one. However, the integration of this technology will be very empowering for all workers in the world today who don’t have that kind of access and the tools that we take for granted. To that end, we see major parallels in integration of the headset with the rise of mobile phones. It took time for those huge brick phones to shrink in size and price, and we firmly believe that the same will be true for AR wearable devices.
Vice president, Amazon Halo at Amazon
Wearables can now gather a litany of health data; however, this information is often confusing and does not provide guidance on how to effectively use the information to inform health/fitness-related decisions.
The future of wearables must include evolving artificial intelligence and machine learning to give users advanced, accurate, and digestible insights to understand and manage their individual health in new ways. New affordable consumer technologies utilizing innovative AI technologies, like Amazon Halo, are democratizing access to previously expensive medical devices and overlooked preventative health treatments, such as analyzing body fat percentage or corrective exercises to improve movement health. Empowering consumers with easy-to-use digital AI and ML tools that focus on total health and can be accessed from the comfort of their own home has the potential to increase both life quality and life expectancy.
Along with providing customers with more digestible, solutions-oriented health data, wearables should also be used to better equip healthcare providers with vital health data to inform healthcare decisions. This requires close collaboration with the medical community and will be an evolving dialogue as both customers and medical experts get more familiar with the health data available at their fingertips.
Amit Phull, M.D.
Senior vice president of Strategy at Doximity; attending physician in emergency medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago
The potential promise of wearables to make an impact on patient care is enormous. Through wearables, we have the opportunity to collect valuable real-time data that can empower patients, inform care teams and even save lives. However, truly unlocking the potential of this technology requires focusing on interconnectivity and standardizing how data is collected, stored, transmitted and ultimately leveraged in a clinical context.
Medical professionals are very busy and, unfortunately, our health care system remains largely fragmented and siloed. While our ability to generate patient data through the use of wearables is very encouraging, a potential tsunami of inbound unstructured data could be overwhelming and frustrating to providers. From a provider’s perspective, our system currently lacks the necessary supporting digital infrastructure to effectively process, analyze and communicate this data in a way that is secure, scalable and, most importantly, broadly clinically useful.
To fully realize the value of wearables, we need to develop solutions for providers that empower them to be more productive. One of the most important "layers" we must develop — even on top of the data from wearables — is that which enables health care providers to utilize this data in their clinical work in as close to real time as necessary or possible. Only then will providers be empowered to use this data to have a significant, long-term impact on their patients.
President & CEO at OMRON Healthcare
As we look to the future of the category, the biggest change to wearables will be in how they can help to make real-time, medically relevant health decisions. The most effective wearables are now medical devices that are driving behavior change by engaging consumers to actively manage their health conditions. Wearables are also providing a discovery path to the power that data has in strengthening the patient-physician connection. This will continue to evolve treatment for better outcomes.
Wearables have to fit into life seamlessly. Consumers want wearables that are easy to use, and clearly define the benefits that will help them reach their goal such as understanding their health condition more, managing it better, and understanding the bigger picture and risk reduction. They want to know that the time and money they invest in a wearable is translating to measurable change and benefits.
At OMRON, we launched HeartGuide, the first wearable blood pressure monitor in the compact form of a wristwatch – for those who want to keep close watch on their heart health anytime, anywhere and take action. And, we are continuing to develop innovative ways to improve our technology for better heart health. HeartGuide, which is registered with the FDA as a medical device, was a game-changer for the category, and its corresponding app became a game-changer, too. Now, the latest version of the OMRON Connect app is our centerpiece for all of our connected blood pressure monitors, which will build the future of wearables.
Dr. Emerson Perin, M.D., Ph.D., FACC
Medical director at the Texas Heart Institute
The sky is the limit in cardiology for wearables. Wearables and monitoring devices that can integrate a patients’ vital signs into predictive algorithms hold tremendous promise for monitoring health and detecting disease. These technologies could soon give us a much broader view of our patient’s health status and disease progression. When combined with other sources of patient health information, wearable technologies could allow doctors to give patients tailored recommendations about how to reduce their risk and enjoy a healthier future. Such devices could also help monitor cardiovascular, metabolic, and other parameters and relay the measures back to healthcare professionals allowing for fine tuning of treatments.
Typically, heart attack patients contact medical professionals when they feel chest pain; the interval between this contact and treatment is an important determinant of outcome. Wearables could alert patients of a possible heart attack and advise them to contact medical services before the onset of chest pain, which could reduce time-to-treatment, decrease heart attack complications, and save lives. However, the devices on the market today still need further validation before they can be relied upon for this purpose.
We are studying wearables and collecting data to develop predictive algorithms for this very purpose - the very early detection of heart attack. Some of the most popular wearables in the world can record EKGs and thus with the proper integration become extremely useful in identifying a heart attack even before the patient feels chest pain.
Chief technology officer at iRhythm
In the future, wearables will only increase their role in raising awareness of health in the wider population. At minimum, these broadly distributed screening tools will act to identify individuals appropriate for diagnosis and treatment in the traditional healthcare system. But their potential is both broader and more disruptive: With continued, AI-focused development and clinical evidence, wearables could reach diagnostic ability in specific use cases, effectively replacing current solutions. This disruptive potential will be further accelerated by efforts to leverage AI to shift focus from retrospective analysis to predictive insight. Collectively, this will lead to wider use of wearables in remote monitoring with the intent to determine who needs preventive care before symptoms and associated outcome risks manifest, all with the goal of improving population health.
Senior vice president of Strategic Solutions at Definitive Healthcare
We can expect to see the demand and adoption of wearables to grow exponentially in the next five years. Through Definitive Healthcare’s remote patient monitoring claims data, we found that these forms of technology doubled in growth from 2020 to 2021.
To meet this demand, the health care industry will need to synthesize the data that’s being collected by making it more accessible. With more informed consumers and digital-savvy health care providers, the demand for this data is at an all-time high. Consumers want access to this data to make informed decisions around their care. Providers want this patient data to use it in a predictive manner in their day-to-day. This means that in five years' time, we should have clear parameters to share data collected from wearables securely, including data-sharing agreements, organizational and industrywide guidelines. With this great demand for wearables comes even higher expectations for how to fully leverage remote monitoring data to improve patient health outcomes.
Chief commercial officer at Cala
As medtech continues to race toward a digitally-enabled, patient-centered industry, wearables must prioritize the end use (i.e., the patient) and ease of use above nearly everything else. No matter how revolutionary or beneficial a wearable is for various disease states, if the ease of use isn’t there, adoption is far less likely.
See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated May 24, 2022).
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
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