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In July 2022, researchers Kang and Exworthy published an article in JMIR Publications entitled, Wearing the Future – Wearables to Empower Users to Take Greater Responsibility for Their Health and Care: Scoping Review. The researcher’s goal was to identify, summarize, and synthesize knowledge on how wearable technology in healthcare can empower individuals to take greater responsibility for their health and care. Suggestions were provided for health practitioners who work with consumers interested in using wearable health monitoring devices.
Kang & Exworthy examined medical and government literature during the study and used data from MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, HMIC, and Cochrane Library. After sifting through 1585 records, the researchers settled on 20 studies, accounting for more than 7,000 participants. They identified these three main topics of interest:
- Barriers to wearable device use
- Clinician support for the use of wearable health monitoring devices and the benefits for both patient and healthcare professionals
- Changing patient behavior
Barriers To Using Wearable Technology in Healthcare
Wearable device data accuracy has been a concern for some time, and to some extent, doubts about data accuracy have discouraged the use of wearable healthcare technologies. The report recommends regulatory oversight to ensure the quality of the data provided by such devices.
Other cautions include:
- Older users are often reluctant to use wearable health monitoring devices as they find the technology difficult to understand and manage. Operating some of these devices also requires coordination and agility, which some older people may not have. Small displays may make it difficult for older people to read outcomes.
- The report cautions that the cost of these devices should not broaden healthcare disparities between the wealthy and the poor. Healthcare disparities have worsened over the pandemic, with the most impoverished not always able to access quality healthcare despite their more significant needs.
- Privacy concerns have also arisen, with users worried that others may gain access to their healthcare data.
Promotion of Wearable Health Monitoring Devices & Reducing Healthcare Disparities
Healthcare providers can play a significant role in encouraging clients to use healthcare monitoring devices safely. Clinicians are encouraged to consider the appropriateness of wearable health monitoring devices for the people they serve, using these suggestions:
- Introduce. Educate clients on the advantages of wearable devices. The continuous supply of critical data can offer clinicians significant insights, providing a holistic view of the patient’s condition.
- Proper use. If the client or patient purchases a device, be available to provide guidance about following printed directions, adequate placement of sensors if used, etc.
Wearable devices in healthcare can change patient behavior through progress tracking with positive reinforcement and reminders. Wearables can encourage users by offering encouragement when there is slight improvement and praise when the user achieves milestones.
The review concluded that wearable technology in healthcare empowered patients and helped healthcare workers diagnose and monitor problems. Cautions about the accuracy of devices were duly noted. In the right environment, wearable technology in healthcare encourages self-monitoring, which can lead to changes in patient behaviors.
The researchers cautioned that wearable health monitoring devices shouldn’t widen healthcare inequities, recommending that devices “serve as an additional option for individuals to proactively manage their health care rather than acting as a replacement for any traditional mode of delivery.” Consumers wishing to obtain wearable technologies that are out of reach financially are encouraged to write to the device manufacturer to request discounts. Community involvement is likely needed to reduce healthcare disparities for wearable technology in healthcare and telehealth disparities, which is duly becoming an increasing focus.
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