Covid-19 has accelerated health and fitness app development by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) technology into traditional healthcare. Covid-19 has increased awareness of personal hygiene and wearable tech devices are helping users take precautions to prevent infection. For instance, Apple updated the Cardiogram app, which measures users’ heart rate, with a new sleeping beats per minute (BPM) feature for monitoring heart rate fluctuations in users with Covid-19.
Another example is a German smartwatch app that monitors the spread of Covid-19. The Robert Koch Institute has partnered with a healthcare start-up, Thryve, to launch an app named Corona Data Donation that gathers vital measurements such as pulse, temperature and sleep duration from users and analyses whether they are symptomatic of Covid-19. Smartwatch vendors such as Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit, along with new entrants like Huami and Oppo, also highlight their devices’ capabilities to consumers with additional features such as heart rate monitoring and accelerometry to become more holistic health trackers.
Other potentially promising healthcare-related wearable tech use cases are under development. For instance, Omron’s HeartGuide smartwatch provides a complete oscillometric blood pressure test that captures systolic and diastolic pressure measurements using the same approach used in medical hospitals. Apple’s latest smartwatch can measure oxygen saturation in the blood (SpO₂) and provide electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements.
However, getting healthcare providers to use these devices is challenging as healthcare is a highly regulated industry and slow to adopt new technologies. The majority of physicians and medical professionals are sceptical of wearable tech’s functionality and usefulness. There are concerns over the accuracy of the data they collect, combined with the general lack of an adequate medical record infrastructure. Other issues such as data privacy regulations could also stop wearable tech devices like smartwatches from becoming part of mainstream healthcare systems. Physicians often do not know what exactly to do with the data presented to them by wearables and are often reluctant to make decisions based on data that has yet to be proven effective.
The wearable tech market can stay relevant and grow in the healthcare industry, but it must meet specific conditions. Companies producing wearable tech devices must publish high-quality research studies and conduct controlled trials that will document and show the accuracy of these devices across populations. Wearable tech devices must also be easily accessible to healthcare providers and patients with health and physical disabilities.