Personalized health data is becoming more accessible to and actionable for patients and providers than it’s ever been before. The expansion of big tech’s presence into the healthcare space is an indicator of the viability of the data gathered from wearables and connected devices, as today’s consumers can look down at their phones and watches to view more than steps and calories burned in real time. Devices are now offering more feedback and data to consumers on cardiac care biometrics that once provided limited information. Not only are cardiac events being measured more accurately with advanced sensors, but it is happening at home, at work and on the go, without visiting the doctor’s office.
These advancements lead to truly proactive care, enabling consumers to take charge of their health alongside their care provider before a larger issue manifests. When every second counts in cardiac care, this area stands to benefit immensely from advancements. More specifically, monitoring potential or diagnosed atrial fibrillation (afib) is of key interest to technologists in the space. This potentially serious cardiac complication, which can increase the risk of stroke, is being tracked and managed for the first time with consumer wearables. Afib is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) experience chaotic electrical signals, and it currently affects between 2.7 to 6.1 million Americans.
Having a wearable that can accurately track heart rates and alert users to the occurrence of afib is instrumental in preventive care and can save hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient in healthcare costs by addressing the medical concern before it results in stroke or cardiac arrest. Although still in the early stages of provider acceptance, identifying afib wasn’t feasible at home, remotely or without a prescription until these novel wearable devices entered the market.
There is more to why these connected devices are still in the early adoption stage. It is a big jump for the medical community to go from highly regulated and prescribed devices to FDA-cleared, consumer-ready devices. The healthcare industry has already made this transition in blood pressure monitoring, temperature monitoring and other areas; however, cardiology is the new horizon that holds much promise. Part of the transition lies in clinical proof of accuracy. Afib detection requires extremely accurate data ideally over a period of time to properly track and identify the chronic heart condition.
The other challenges are data access and actionability. Connecting the patient and doctor is the first step. Yet, the data presented also has to be actionable and easily understood for both parties. Another component of these challenges is incorporating this feedback into the electronic medical record, the primary source of patient data for physicians. However, interoperability with externally acquired data continues to be a challenge in health IT.
In a time where some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it’s discovered often at a later stage, advanced tracking and detection is crucial for catching it early. With today’s new technologies, this is now possible for the first time. Technologists are exploring many form factors, platforms, gamification techniques and more to increase adoption of these new offerings, but all can agree that cardiac care, in particular afib, is a priority for development.
This article is the first in a three part series outlining medical conditions that stand to be most impacted by advancements in IoT sensors and wearables.
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