Modern Healthcare: Hospitals, clinics may be ready to adopt wearable tech
Advances in wearable technology are opening the door for a new generation of disease treatments that leverage remote monitoring and therapeutics delivered via devices worn on the body.
Wearable devices and sensors, also known as wearables, are a growing area of focus for healthcare organizations and technology companies alike.
But as the technology offerings grow, hospitals and health systems are still figuring out the best way to integrate wearables into care delivery, if at all.
It’s yet to be seen whether increased remote monitoring practices adopted during the pandemic, such as using wearables, are sustained.
The Food and Drug Administration in September created a new center tasked with coordinating and supporting the agency’s efforts to “modernize” its regulation of digital health technologies categorized as medical devices.
Not all health apps and wearables are considered medical devices, as defined by the FDA.
Experts have raised concerns about whether devices developed as consumer fitness trackers provide data as accurate as traditional medical devices, and have questioned whether the often costly devices will widen health disparities if not deployed in an accessible way or subsidized by a provider or insurer.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Mercy Kansas City (Mo.) launched a program to deliver physical education to local elementary school students remotely.
The research project, still in its early stages, seeks to encourage kids to engage in physical activity while at home and to help Children’s Mercy better understand the role wearables can play in doing so.
“School is a huge source of kids’ physical activity,” said Jordan Carlson, associate professor of pediatrics at the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition at Children’s Mercy, citing a 2015 study he led that found roughly half of kids’ daily physical activity comes from time spent at school. Carlson is leading the project, which is dubbed the Stay Active Program.
“With the impact of the pandemic, and kids not physically being at school … we know physical activity is taking a huge hit,” he said.
Children’s Mercy in the fall launched the research project—funded by a grant from the Claire Giannini Fund—in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in six schools. Stay Active involves an instructor from Children’s Mercy delivering physical activity lessons via video conferencing twice a week, with short sessions of five to 10 minutes. To encourage kids to exercise, the program also supplies participating classrooms with smartwatch fitness trackers from Garmin, which students wear to track daily step counts and minutes of physical activity. Parents get an email newsletter twice a month with advice on encouraging their kids to be active during the pandemic.
Garmin donated 250 smartwatches for the program; so far, roughly 75 devices have been distributed to participating students. The smartwatches retail for around $80.
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