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4 Ways Wearable Devices May Aid Patient Experience, Outcomes

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   September 09, 2015

Pilot programs and clinical trials underway at four hospitals may shed light on how wearable technology may result in happier, healthier patients.

The promise of wearable devices is hitting healthcare in a big way, and not just because everyone on your floor is wearing a Fitbit.

The wearable device market is expected to be worth more than $53 billion by 2019 and, as this infographic demonstrates, the majority of devices are geared toward health. And while millions of consumers are already using wearables to track their steps and sleep patterns, hospitals are beginning to look into how similar technology might be used to improve patient experience and boost outcomes.

Here are four recent pilot programs and clinical trials underway at hospitals that shed some light on how the wearable trend may result in happier, healthier patients.

1. Vitals Monitoring
In July, the University of Pennsylvania Health System launched a test of wearable vitals monitors in a medical-surgical unit for cancer patients to determine if the devices can improve patient experience and quality of care.

The FDA-approved monitors are worn on the patient's arm and may allow for patients to rest better during their stay.

Since the program is in the pilot stage, the monitors haven't been integrated into the health system's EHR, but if study findings determine that the devices enhance patient experience and meet quality measures, the IT department will begin EHR integration.


2. Breast Cancer Detection
El Camino Hospital, in Mountain View, CA, is participating in a clinical trial for Cyrcadia Health, Inc.'s wearable device that aims to improve early detection of breast cancer. The study is targeting patients who undergo biopsies on non-cancerous tissue and patients with dense breast tissue, which can mask cancer cells during mammograms.

The device, called the iTBra, is wearable, smartphone-enabled technology that is placed under the bra and collects breast cell data for two to twelve hours. Any discrepancies or abnormalities are transferred through the device to a global cancer library, where results will be analyzed before they are communicated back to the patient and physician.

"El Camino Hospital is pleased to be involved in Cyrcadia Health's research study to evaluate this potential new technology," Katherine Sutherland, MD, co-investigator for the iTBra trial at El Camino Hospital, said in a press release. "Participation in this trial is another way we continue our effort to bolster early breast cancer detection."

3. Childhood Obesity
This spring, the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital Pediatric Comprehensive Weight Management Center began using Fruit Street Health's telemedicine program to prevent childhood obesity. The hospital decided to use the technology as a patient experience measure. Now, patients can access their weight management program without making a trip to the Ann Arbor campus.

>>>The Reality of Virtual Care

Fruit Street's Virtual Lifestyle Medicine Clinic program allows for video consultations, and can be integrated with a number of wearable consumer devices, such as Fitbit, Jawbone, and Apple Watch. Through these measures, clinicians can monitor patient lifestyle data, including sleep, exercise, diet, weight, blood pressure, and blood glucose data.

"Childhood obesity is a significant public health concern. Many children with excess weight will grow up to be severely obese adults and will suffer from obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease," Susan Woolford, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the weight management program, said in a press release.

"Our goal is to help teens and their families improve their health through lifestyle changes and we believe that well designed communications technology can help us connect with our patients and increase the likelihood of our patients achieving success."

4. Rehabilitation
Florida Hospital recently teamed with REFLX Labs, creator of Boogio Bionic Foot Sensors, to investigate how they may improve the rehabilitation process for pediatric patients.

Boogio, a device that hides inside the patient's shoe, captures body movement data, including foot pressure and balance. Florida Hospital Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation employees also found that Boogio may help treat children who walk on their toes or balls of their feet.

"As we seek to improve our community's health, increase access to medical services and lower the cost of healthcare, we look for opportunities to partner with businesses such as REFLX Labs," Vickie White, vice president of Strategic Partnering at Florida Hospital, said in a press release. "We believe innovative products such as Boogio can be applied in healthcare, and we are eager to see how this technology can help our patients."

Marianne Aiello is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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