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by Carl Anthony Osborne
Published on November 28, 2018

Significant advances in health care technology have resulted in rapid, positive developments in patient care, diagnosis and treatment. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect further advances in these areas, as well as other areas like data access, interoperability and consultation. 

Wearable technology is one example of a sector that has made meaningful contributions toward progress in health care. These devices have the potential to make a positive difference in the health care experience for both consumers and clinicians. I recently introduced an exciting new solution in the space: seeCOLe (See Clinical data On Lens). It’s a wearable mobile health app that permits clinicians to use voice commands to review and document patient information. 

Powered by augmented reality devices, such as Google Glass and Vuzix Blade, seeCOLe provides clinicians with the ultimate convenience to navigate electronic health records (EHRs). This technology is applicable in a variety of medical environments, including emergency departments, operation rooms, outpatient facilities, pharmacy labs, ambulatory clinics and more. My innovative solution won the 2018 Cerner code App Challenge, and I had the opportunity to speak and demo the app at Cerner Health Conference 2018.

Benefits of wearables in health care

Clinician-based wearables offer ease of use and the ability to multi-task. Yet, with enhancements in usability and functionality comes increased data collection. Now, doctors have more information to review for each patient, and they must figure out how to accurately and efficiently interpret it for diagnosis and treatment. Research shows that clinicians spend nearly half their time examining data, leaving less time to examine patients. The capability for clinicians to explore health records hands-free makes data analysis quicker, easier and more precise. 

Documenting results and recommendations following a patient assessment also adds to the burden of health care providers. The interactive software and voice command functions in seeCOLe, and other wearables, can significantly reduce documentation time and increase physician satisfaction. 
 
On the other end of the spectrum, wearable technology is also being used to monitor consumers in their everyday lives. With seamless tracking of physical activity, sleep patterns, weight, glucose, heart rate and more, doctors can use this technology to collect a large amount of useful data about their patients. A 2018 study revealed that 73 percent of consumers see the benefit of using wearables to engage with their health, and 90 percent of consumers are willing to share their wearable health device information with their physician. 

EHRs already allow clinicians to access digital records, predict serious health issues and get alerts for specific screenings that a patient might need. The ability to explore this information, while continuing with core patient interaction, is what sets wearables apart from other data-access alternatives. Even tablets and smartphones require the use of the clinician’s hands, which ultimately slows down their workflow and reduces efficiency.

Clearly, anything that allows a clinician to be more engaged, provide more accurate diagnoses and implement more effective treatments should be of great interest to patients. However, clinical wearable technology also has potential to save time for patients. Rather than a patient waiting for the doctor to review their file at the start of the appointment, then waiting again halfway through while the doctor makes notes, this can all be accomplished as the examination is taking place. Having near real-time information available also encourages ongoing dialogue between clinician and patient, and occasionally informational tidbits will trigger questions or advice that may not have otherwise come up.

How wearables are enhancing other industries

Health care providers can look to other industries for ideas on how to further and better apply wearables to improve the consumer and physician experience. Google Glass was intended to be both a source of information and a communication medium, but Google discontinued the product due to privacy concerns, social awkwardness and people not wanting to wear them in public. The technology is sound, however, and continues to be adopted for use in other industries. Designers recognize that this technology is of great use to any industry in which people need to access information while working with their hands. Already, we’re seeing augmented reality devices being used in factories and by IT installers. 

With less concern for fashion in a work setting and an unobtrusive design, wearables are being implemented in many forms. For instance, detachable versions can be used in conjunction with prescription and safety glasses to accomplish jobs simultaneously. With less emphasis on size, there have also been general improvements in functionality and storage, such as Vuzix Blade. 

The future of wearable technology in health care

Industrial and office use has given augmented reality wearables a new lease on life. Corporations and professionals recognize the immense potential of this technology, and its evolution is only limited by the imagination. Despite an initial lack of public acceptance for augmented reality glasses, their new role as a crucial tool for laborers and professionals – particularly in the health care field – is arguably far more important. Providing better ways to accomplish essential workplace tasks and improving the quality of health care are critical steps forward. As with any burgeoning technology, wearables stand to improve as their use in health care becomes more widespread and demand drives ingenuity.

Cerner Open Developer Experience (code) encourages innovators to build apps that advance the health care industry through improved interoperability capabilities. Learn more here. For more information on seeCOLe, visit Seecole.app.