5 ways wearable medical devices can boost patient outcomes
Thursday, May 09, 2019
As a healthcare professional, you know that wearable medical devices, known as wearables for short, can benefit your healthcare organization's patients in extremely valuable ways — if they're used correctly. Using wrist trackers, smart clothing and attachable sensors, it's possible for patients to determine how much physical activity they get each day, evaluate the impact daily stress has on their lives, and even self-monitor an ongoing medical condition.
So how can you help empower your patients to use wearables correctly — and safely? These five science-tested strategies can help you give the correct instructions — and improve your patients' overall health most effectively.
Prescribe wearables for highly motivated patients.
A study from Lancaster University, the University of the West of England, and Nottingham Trent University found that one-third of wearable users will quit using their devices after six months, and half will stop after a year.
Avoid assigning trackable devices for patients who aren't physically well enough to monitor motivational progress. For instance, a patient recovering from a hip replacement might not be able to log a lot of walking miles at first. A better candidate would be a patient who is very determined to lose weight and improve stamina.
Coordinate self-monitoring with consistent follow-up.
Wearables in six key categories were recently evaluated by researchers at Queensland University: monitors for hydration status and metabolism; monitors for physical and emotional stress; monitors for biofeedback information, such as muscle stimulation; monitors for cognitive feedback; monitors for sleep analysis; and monitors for concussion evaluation.
The researchers concluded that wearables can be helpful for patients when it comes to gathering general health information, but they can also encourage patients to diagnose themselves with conditions they don't actually have. Nip this potential problem in the bud by scheduling timely appointments so your patients can have the info they compile accurately interpreted by a physician.
Introduce wearables as part of the discharge procedure.
A study from the University of Texas, Galveston found that wearables can be very helpful for patients when they are released from the hospital to measure recovery and catch secondary problems that could adversely affect rehab or cause a readmission.
Have your nursing staff work with inpatients a day before they're discharged to make sure they understand the proper way to use and collect info from a wearable, and give clear instructions on how to quickly communicate any problems they discover to their doctors.
Incorporate wearables into outpatient diagnostic procedures.
A study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that wearables can provide valuable data on patients' daily fatigue but should be only one component of an effective and full sleep evaluation.
Stress to your patients that it's important to discuss the measurements their devices log with their physicians, but also to understand that standard, in-depth procedures like overnight sleep studies are often essential as well and that self-tracking is no substitute.
Make sure your patients don't get too diligent.
Wearables can cause some patients to become too zealous about tracking their health — this could lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with the numbers and cause hypochondria. Your physicians should express to patients that self-monitoring should be done at times during the day, not constantly, and address how to interpret number fluctuations accurately.
The more informed your patients are, the more smoothly they'll integrate wearables into their daily lives. They'll garner accurate info that can change their health for the better.
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