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Wearable medical devices are not meant to replace a physician’s care, nor are they intended to. We would still encourage you to seek assistance from your primary care physician, and consult them before using any products mentioned herein.
A wearable oxygen monitor? A wearable ring tracker? A wearable sleep tracker in the bedroom? A wearable ring to deal with ED in the bedroom? Stranger things happen, stranger things have been invented, and when it comes to wearable medical devices and wellness tools, reality can often be stranger than fiction.
We’re no stranger to tracking tracker apps and electronic devices that aid the user’s wellness, including sleep trackers, fitness activity trackers, and the like. But going beyond apps, wearable health devices have made the wrist (among other places) a relevant source of information again.
Smartphones may have diminished the popularity and utility of the average wristwatch, but wearable wellness devices are capable of doing a whole lot more than just telling the time. These small wearable devices can monitor a big, wide range of important health biometrics, such as:
- Heart rate
- Glucose levels
- Blood pressure
- Sleep patterns
- Blood oxygen
- Walking distance
- Calorie intake
- Menstrual cycles
- Fitness activity
- Body temperatures
- Respiratory rates
Some wearable device manufacturers even claim to go a step further than simply tracking biometric health data. Certain wearables purport to not only monitor and diagnose conditions, but to potentially even alleviate some of those conditions as well.
Research on the efficacy of some wearables is ongoing, but the early results gathered by some of these products have been promising. Nevertheless, direct health benefits or not, these wearables allow you to monitor key health metrics and diagnostics outside of the doctor’s office. Whether you’re looking for a:
The wearable device market has all of these wellness areas cornered, and more as well. According to industry analysis firm Grand View Research, the global wearable market is projected to potentially generate over $186 billion in revenue by 2030!
With that said, let’s cover why this up and coming form of “biohacking” is growing in popularity, and whether or not these technologies truly live up to the hype.
How Wearable Technology Works
Wearables are designed to be worn throughout your day, and use embedded built-in sensor technology to monitor key wellness biometrics. In the context of health and wellness, medical wearable devices could include:
- Clothing with built-in health monitoring tech
- Artificial intelligence-assisted hearing aids
- Smart rings, wristbands, watches, or jewelry
- Body-mounted biometric sensor technology
- Smart headbands, straps, or headset devices
Wearable devices, in a health and wellness context, are far from a new concept. For example, according to the American Diabetes Association, the history of wearable glucose metering technology dates all the way back to the 1980s! They didn’t have smartphone app connectivity back then, but they still helped to monitor and potentially improve long-term health outcomes.
Right now, in the age of the Internet of Things, these wearable trackers can observe more critical health biometrics than ever before. Furthermore, patients who incorporate wearables into their wellness regimen can monitor their day-to-day biometric data more closely than ever before.
When it comes to the increasing popularity of wrist wearables specifically, one could argue that your wrist is the most convenient spot for a device to monitor your health. You won’t need to whip this sort of wearable out of your pocket to view data, your arms follow a wide range of motion throughout the day, and your wrist has no shortage of veins for the device to monitor:
These symptom monitoring capabilities are important, as they can potentially empower patients to be more mindful of their wellness. Additionally, these capabilities could be potentially efficacious for preventative care, as wearables can possibly alert you to early signs and symptoms when they arise.
How Wearable Technology Will Reshape Healthcare
Wearable medical devices can arguably serve as an invaluable wellness multitool in a number of ways. For instance:
- They reinforce healthy habits: It’s basic psychology that positive reinforcement and reminders can help people maintain healthy habits more effectively. (APA)
- Tracking present conditions could prevent future conditions: Wearables afford patients even more agency to monitor their symptoms, which could potentially play a vital role in preventative care.
- They could arguably save money in the long run: We won’t pretend that wearables are a low-cost purchase by any means, but if you’re able to reap wellness benefits from your wearable device, you could consider it a long term investment on your health.
- Trackers can help physicians better help you: Daily, 24/7 health data paints a more detailed picture of the symptoms and conditions affecting your day-to-day life. Conversely, this data could potentially help your doctor better understand and assess those particular conditions.
Wearables can’t remove or replace doctor visits in their entirety, but they can assist your care. Some niche wearable brands don’t just monitor symptoms, but potentially alleviate certain symptoms too. For example, vibrational wearable devices have demonstrated stress relieving capabilities in clinical settings (Clinical Reports).
Fisher Wallace, a company behind a popular cranial stimulation device, has also had its wearable FDA-cleared to treat depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. We would recommend consulting your primary care physician before incorporating any wearable devices into your care.
According to the nonprofit HIMSS (not to be confused with Hims), more than half of all surveyed-providers found self-monitoring wearable technology beneficial to their work!
Can Wearable Devices Cause Cancer?
Many wearable products are reliant on radio-frequency (RF) sensors to track and gather biometric wellness data. The use of RF radiation might be a cause of concern for some, but in the United States, the FCC regulates and limits the amount of radiowaves and RF exposure from consumer products.
The CDC is also continually monitoring concerns regarding radio frequency waves. So if you’re wondering about the risks of potential carcinogens from using wearable devices, that risk seems to be low. Most wearables use low-power sensors that emit minimal RF radiowaves, which mean you’re only being exposed to a low level of radiation.
However, certain wearable devices may still potentially harbor mild side effects, and some may not be so effective or beneficial for everyone. Fitbit devices, for instance, have been known to sometimes trigger rashes and allergic reactions in some users.
We would again recommend that you consult your physician before incorporating any wearable devices into your wellness regimen.
Is Wearable Technology The Future?
Wearable wellness technology isn’t the future - it’s already here!