Column – Optimizing Wearables – MedTech Intelligence

Wearable medical devices have come a long way, from the first implantable pacemaker in 1958 to the first commercially approved blood glucose monitor in 1999. In fact, a recent post on the evolution of wearables with real-time disease monitoring cited wearables as the future of personalized healthcare.

There is no doubt that modern wearables have the potential to save lives and start the preventive care revolution. With advances in technology, wearables have become available to an even wider audience, with commercial devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit driving prices down, making them more affordable for the masses. Both devices are credited with notifying users of medical emergencies and improving overall health.

Despite advanced wearable device technology, one in five patients say their wearable device is difficult to use, according to a Software Advice Survey of more than 450 US patients currently using medically prescribed wearables. This often leads to inaccurate data being entered, creating a slippery slope for widespread medical adoption, as doctors may misdiagnose or mistreat patients.

It is up to medical device designers, scientists and engineers to ensure that their products are easy to use and provide accurate information. Here are five ways to make wearable devices more accurate and efficient for patients:

1. Audit user experience data to learn from inaccurate data collection.

The majority of patients who enter data manually (87%) recorded inaccurate data on their portable devices. It is imperative that developers collect user experience data and then identify where inaccurate data entry is occurring. From there, they can analyze how this information is communicated to healthcare providers and use this data to make more informed design decisions.

2. Revamp UI/UX to fix usability issues.

Of the 87% of patients who recorded data inaccurately, 85% say the error occurred because the user interface was difficult to understand. Keep in mind that many wearable medical users are elderly patients who may not be as technologically advanced as their younger counterparts. User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX) is arguably the most fundamental aspect of a wearable medical device as it considers usability and accurate data collection.

3. Keep comfort in mind when developing wearables.

Even if you have the best UI/UX on the market, physical comfort is a top priority for consumers. Comfort can make or break your laptop from a business perspective. The first commercially approved glucometers failed because users could not stand the discomfort and collection method. Flashforward to now, and glucose monitors are much more comfortable and even connect to your smartphone for easy use.

Comfort can manifest itself in many different ways, from ensuring your wrist has an adjustable strap for all sizes, to the fabric and materials used. More invasive wearable devices, such as heart monitors and glucose collectors, should be painless and easily hidden under clothing. Patients are much more likely to stay consistent with a wearable health program when the device meets their needs.

4. Fix potential security vulnerabilities.

Taking the time to check your devices for security threats is extremely important to ensure that patient privacy concerns are addressed. In fact, 39% of survey respondents cite “security vulnerabilities with sensitive data” as the biggest downside to prescribed wearables.

For most portable devices, it is the responsibility of the developers to ensure that the software has built-in protections against data loss, hacking, or other vulnerabilities. Physicians prescribe new devices, and developers should keep in mind that data will likely be shared between the device and vendor EHR platforms.

5. Develop comprehensive technical support for providers and patients.

Prescribers and patients need comprehensive instructions on how to accurately use and get the most out of their devices. It’s important to make sure your team provides a solid introduction to the device when selling to general consumers or vendors, as well as strong technical support.

As a developer, your device is only as good as the results it provides to patients. That’s why you need to clearly and effectively communicate how it works in the form of collateral “how-to” documents and 24/7 technical support. When a patient’s health is at stake, these are all must-haves for any medical device company.

Wearables are the future of personalized healthcare and remote patient monitoring. As wearable technologies evolve, it is important that developers think of the patient first and the providers who will rely on accurate data to make more informed diagnoses and treatment plans. Designers should consider the recommendations above to help them create more personalized and effective solutions that ultimately lead to better health outcomes.

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