Data sharing and analytics
Because the CGM systems regularly collect glucose readings, they could have value for larger clinics monitoring multiple patients as well as small or independent medical practices. The FreeStyle Libre system generates multiple reports per patient, including a snapshot, glucose pattern insights, daily log, daily patterns, and a glucose summary. The reporting software is free to download and use by both patients and physicians. Patient can share PDFs of the reports, or they can share all the data with their physician by linking a LibreView account to their healthcare practice.
Taub added that future embedded sensors could measure the quality of sleep, HR, and other health-related information. “That data will be collected and processed with connected devices in a way that is simple, with minimal human intervention,” he says. “The sensor data will support improved clinical decision support systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for data analysis. Having these regular monitoring systems in place will result in more efficient disease management and better outcomes.”
Pain management and rehabilitation
Data analytics are also playing a role in medical and therapeutic applications using virtual reality (VR). Boston-based VRHealth has developed immersive environments that use Oculus VR headsets to take a patient through specific movements and tasks. By monitoring patient performance and reactions during each VR session, the platform analyzes session data and, with the help of AI algorithms, builds a results portal for clinicians.
VRHealth has developed 10 different VR environments and is being used at Hoag Medical Group in Los Angeles, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, Calif.
Currently, the company has VR environments designed for upper extremity and fully body rehabilitation, cervical spine range of motion assessments, and motor cognitive training. Other existing applications from VRHealth include environments used for pain distraction, neck training, memory span testing, and a cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) application for hot flashes. The hot flash environment includes an AI therapist named “Luna” for psychological assistance and self-management of symptoms.
“Virtual reality environments and analysis takes the value of wearable data to a whole new level,” says Maya Bein-Nachal, vice president of operations at VRHealth. “By controlling the virtual environment for a stroke patient, a clinician can closely monitor recovery progress and quantify the patient’s interactions. The physician can challenge the patient’s body and mind by inserting different tasks and movements into their virtual environments.”
Remote patient monitoring for health intervention
Eran Ofir, CEO and co-founder of Somatix, has developed another targeted use for wearables: behavior tracking via gesture detection. By detecting simple hand gestures in real time via a single wristband wearable, the Somatix platform can deliver actionable insights to caregivers and increase treatment adherence for patients. “People constantly use their hands, and there is a wealth of health data and information to be found in these daily gestures,” Ofir says.
The Somatix platform compiles movement data from a Somatix wearable and/or with a variety of different existing devices, including a smartwatch, smartband accelerometer, and gyroscope sensor. The platform uses predictive analytics and cloud-based machine learning to passively monitor and remotely track massive volumes of detected gesture data coming from the wearable device. By doing so, the platform can facilitate CBT-driven health intervention.
“Gesture detection can identify a person’s activity and differentiate [between] a person brushing their teeth [and] someone shaving,” Ofir says. “By identifying micro-movements and patterns, a caregiver can know if an elderly person has taken their medication or possibly fallen. A healthcare provider or health coach could also know if a patient who should not be smoking is having a cigarette.
The Somatix digital health platform currently has two applications: SafeBeing and SmokeBeat. SafeBeing elderly remote patient monitoring is designed to help caregivers identify signs of irregularities in an elderly person’s routine. SmokeBeat is used for passive smoking monitoring. By monitoring gestures, SmokeBeat can issue alerts and enables variable combinations of personalized CBT incentives for improved adherence with a clinician’s prescribed cessation therapy.
Improving outcomes at both individual and population levels
With the growing popularity and functionality of wearables, they are delivering a steady stream — and in some cases a deluge — of information to patients and their healthcare providers. With their ability to monitor critical health readings, such as glucose levels, and to stimulate the senses through applications, such as virtual reality, wearables and smart sensors are destined to take on a more valuable role in diagnostics, rehabilitation, lifestyle and behavior change, and preventive care.
With more platforms and form factors, including easy-to-apply adhesive sensors, expected to emerge this year, physicians will have the capability to consistently monitor critical patient stats with real-time data from a wearable that can send an alert at the onset of a problem.
As this happens, wearables will take on more clinical value. “They have the potential to produce significant advances in individual health assessment, population health, and even healthcare delivery itself,” Poterack says.
Melanie McMullen is an experienced tech journalist and founder of BaySide Media in Oakland, Calif. She is the former editor-in-chief of Internet Magazine and LAN Magazine. Melanie has written hundreds of articles on smart technology, data analytics, sensors, mobile apps, and the Internet of Things (IoT). She can be reached at [email protected].