With the New Year comes new innovations in technology. Many new technological innovations were just announced and launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month. Normally this is not big news for the healthcare industry, or in the area of clinical trials, but this year was an exception. Some very exciting new innovations are on the horizon in the area of healthcare wearables. In fact, it could change the entire landscape of clinical trials and other areas of healthcare where monitoring is vital to the health of patients.
What are Wearables?
The term “wearables” is short for wearable electronics. These are light electronics with embedded bio-sensors that can be comfortably worn on the body or clothes. Advances in sensor technology and microelectronics have made these possible, and opened up the door for new advancements in all areas of healthcare and life science industries. Wearables might just be the first step in this new and evolving industry where so many objects are becoming connected or “smart”.
The Future of Healthcare Wearables
You might be familiar with products like FitBit and Jawbone that can monitor your heartrate and other fitness level metrics. Then, of course, there is the mobile watch industry that crosses over into some health metrics, as well. As we learned from announcements and innovations from CES, those are just the tip of the iceberg for the healthcare wearables industry.
In many ways, wearables are transforming healthcare from reactive to preventative as one of the major benefits is that wearables can promote proactive monitoring of health, especially in areas of concern and can transform healthcare from reactive to a more preventative focus. Some of the other benefits include early intervention capabilities, reduced hospital stays, and increased efficiency for healthcare professionals, digital interventions that prompt or remind patients, and big strides in the area of clinical trials, as well.
Healthcare Wearables and Clinical Trials
As our focus at George Clinical is on clinical trials, we look at how all of these innovative new devices can impact the clinical trial industry. Here are 8 ways that wearables will be used in clinical trials and in many cases will improve the entire process, from research to collection to reporting.
- Clinical data can be collected in real-time with wearables rather than waiting for the patient to be seen at site
- With wearables, the patients can participate in trials remotely and still be part of a constantly monitored trial. This can increase accuracy, participation, and cooperation while also reducing costs of travel or accommodations for subjects during the trial.
- Wearables can reduce the amount of times participants have to return to the trial location for some types of clinical trials. This makes it much more convenient to participate and can increase the amount of qualified volunteers.
- Monitoring can be less invasive with wearables eliminating the need for restrictive monitoring tools and reduce daily interruptions for a participant.
- Wearables are more in tune with the current shift to patient-centered care and can help clinical trials become easier and more desirable to participate in.
- Wearables may increase the accuracy and improve the measurement of a drug’s impact and measure against other vital signs and bodily functions.
- Wearables provide an increase in overall data that can be collected, thereby enhancing the results.
- The technology and reach associated with wearables has the ability to reach and recruit mass participants, which not only increases trial sizes but reduces the costs involved in current recruitment procedures.
Clinical Trials Have Already Increased Thanks to Wearables
Wearables in clinical research studies are, without question, still in their infancy. However, early wearable clinical trials have seen a large increase in participation already. Apple has launched an app called ResearchKit. It is used in conjunction with iPhones and Apple Watches. Owners of Apple devices can download clinical apps making it possible and easy to collect a large amount of data from data and different populations as part of an open source project. The response was immediately groundbreaking. Within a day of ResearchKit’s launch, 11,000 volunteers signed up for a Stanford University cardiovascular trial. Prior to this innovation, Stanford said it would take a year to reach that level of participation. Another ResearchKit app, mPower was launched last year. Within six hours, 7,406 people had enrolled in the Parkinson’s study through the application.Prior to that, the largest study group was 1,700.
The wearable electronics market growth is expected to grow from $22.7 billion in 2015 to $173.3 billion by 2020. (source) The benefits the medical industry will see from healthcare wearables are undeniable. Moving from a reactive to a proactive focus will help millions of people around the world. In addition to that, the advances that wearable technology will bring to the clinical trial industry will help improve data collection in order to produce better treatments and cures.