Wearable Technology and Elder Health

Sometime ago a colleague complained of exertion and chest pain while climbing the steps at work. Noticing something amiss we immediately took him to a neighborhood clinic. The General Practitioner (GP) examined him and suggested an ECG. Unfortunately, the facility was not available in his office and we had to shift my colleague to specialty clinic. Thankfully the test was normal.

The scenario slightly changed in the last couple of years. The market saw the advent of smart phone based ECG monitoring systems. These systems could work with a smart phone to generate an ECG at any time and location.

As Apple recently announced the ECG feature in the Apple Watch Series 4 I am amazed by the way technology has evolved itself. Another very interesting feature in the new apple watch is the fall detector and SOS. When the watch detects a hard fall, it is supposed to sound an alarm and display an alert. The individual can confirm if he is ok, else it would automatically call 911 and notify an emergency contact.


Source: https://www.apple.com/apple-watch-series-4/health/

Similarly, Omron is conducting trials of a wearable that can measure blood pressure along with sleep and physical activity.

Millennials are easily attracted to the wearables and other gadgets. However, when you look at the benefits that they offer it makes more sense for seniors and individuals who need constant care to start using these technologies.

The features like ECG and fall detection would be of immense help to seniors. As a wish list I would have loved to have blood pressure monitor included as well. Similar to the fall detection a mechanism through which if an irregular heart rhythm is detected, or a BP reading is constantly high, the system should be able to trigger an alert to the care taker and PCP. Further its should also be captured in the EMR system of his PCP through HL7 CCR or ASTM CCD. This would make elder care, constant care and preventive care more effective.

On the flip side, incorrect inference of the results by the user, google search and self-medication are some of the challenges that may be encountered.

Ultimately it is left to the judgement of the user about how he wants to use any invention. Given that the number of pluses is greater than number of minuses, I would be a strong proponent for the use of wearable technology and digital health.