Over the past two years we’ve seen a boom in the wearable healthcare technology industry, and yes, there is in fact a wearable healthcare technology industry. A few examples are the Nike+ and FitBit monitors that seem to be everywhere, and with their success, more will be joining the race.
In the coming year alone, companies like Sony, LG, Garmin, SAMSUNG and Apple will be coming up with a new devices to help track exercise, sleep patterns and heartrate. So how will you know what’s best for you and your patients?
Some may be wondering why these devices are so important in the first place. Well for most, they are beneficial for people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart and kidney disease. Wearable devices can help monitor their levels and keep track of progress throughout the day. For others, they help track their progress for fitness purposes in hopes of avoiding a chronic condition later in life.
So, what is the most important feature to look for? Is it a heart rate monitor, a GPS for running, or a goal-setting feature? And what about battery life and affordability? There are tons of features available so it might be hard to determine which is more beneficial.
Garmin came out with their first activity tracker called the Vivofit in 2014 to compete with the FitBit and the Vivofit 2 in 2015. The display shows the time, total steps for the day, your goal, total distance, calories and monitors your sleep. Unlike the FitBit, the display is larger and is waterproof up to fifty meters. The Vivofit 2 also includes a feature called the move bar alert, which is a red bar that alerts you to get moving after being inactive for an hour. Vivofit’s battery lasts about one year and is comparable in price with Fitbit costing around $100.
Another activity tracker on the market is the Sony SmartBand. The first SmartBand was released in 2014 and Sony just recently released the SmartBand 2 earlier this year. This one doesn’t have a display at all, but the SmartBand 2 comes with a new feature that other activity trackers lack, such as a silent alarm function that will vibrate to wake you up. The SmartBands essentially become an extension of your phone by allowing the lifelog app to connect you with calls and messages. Unlike the Vivofit, the SmartBand is rechargeable and lasts about 4 days with a full charge and has a heart rate monitor. The original Sony SmartBand is available for about $40, making it much more affordable than previous activity trackers.
While it’s great that this technology is helping people take charge of monitoring their health, we need to remember that these devices aren’t without flaws. The heart rate monitors and sleep monitors aren’t all accurate. These wearable devices take your heart rate from your wrist, when it’s more accurate to take it from your fingertip. And the truth is, they don’t quite know the difference between sleeping or just lying on the couch.
It is extremely important to remember that while we are making great strides with this technology, we still have a long way to go before it’s flawless. Keep in mind that these devices aren’t always 100 percent accurate and should not be a substitute for seeing your doctor for regular check-ups and physicals.