The Evolution Of Sensor Technology In Healthcare
Wearable technology is a category of sensor devices worn as accessories. This space has grown rapidly since the days of using fitness trackers to record steps or flights of stairs. Today’s devices are hands-free gadgets with practical applications, including the ability to transmit a variety of data almost immediately using Bluetooth® or an internet connection.
Ambient sensors are another category of smart sensors used to track health data. These are stationary devices placed into a person’s home to monitor events such as motion, sleep habits, and falls — a serious concern for the elderly. Certain ambient sensors can even track conditions like sleep apnea and congestive heart failure.
For example, 29 million Americans are affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis, yet 80% of cases remain undiagnosed. The current methods of diagnosing sleep problems like OSA are burdensome and expensive. Using new technology, wireless sensors and remote monitoring can provide a more accurate assessment of sleep patterns and potentially prevent serious health conditions.
Wearable Technology And Condition Management
As the data generated by sensors has improved, the use for the information they provide has expanded as well. This is especially true for clinical markers such as blood sugar levels, heart rate monitoring, or medication adherence.
In 2020, Empire facilitated one of the first research studies leveraging the Apple Watch to help people with asthma better manage their condition. The two-year initiative is being led by the University of California, Irvine, and includes participants from Empire-affiliated health plans with a clinical asthma diagnosis and at least one asthma-related emergency visit within the past two years.
The results of this ongoing study will provide meaningful insights into improving self-management for the more than 26 million Americans impacted by asthma. Positive outcomes may demonstrate the power of wearable technology to help people better manage chronic health conditions, potentially leading to fewer costly medical and emergency room visits.
Supporting Employee Well-Being Through Connection
Aside from chronic condition management, wearable technology can support workforce well-being by bringing people together. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some may feel isolated or notice their healthy habits have given way to life demands.
Wearable technology and virtual wellness activities can be useful for connecting employees who work remotely or are spread throughout multiple locations. This could include tracking fitness or exercise, sleep habits, meditation, or drinking enough water. Virtual events can help employees stay engaged with their well-being, promoting positive, long-term behavior changes for a healthier, more productive team. Most employees are also comfortable sharing this type of information without feeling an employer is violating personal privacy or security.
Digital tools and apps can also boost access to well-being resources. For instance, Empire’s SydneySM Health app integrates wellness solutions to inspire, motivate, and connect employees to achieve better health. Sydney syncs with many popular fitness devices and encourages employee participation by linking with technology like Fitbit®, Garmin®, iHealth®, Misfit, and Apple® HealthKit®. Along with fitness and nutrition tracking, Sydney also offers benefits information, wellness tips, and can facilitate virtual care and on-demand doctor visits.
As wearable technology continues to improve, it will become increasingly integrated into the healthcare space. These advances could have far-reaching implications for your organization, promoting both improved well-being and condition management, and helping lower employee cost of care.
Sydney Health is offered through an arrangement with CareMarket, Inc., a separate company offering mobile application services on behalf of Empire Blue Cross ©2020-2021.