Devices, sensors built into clothing to drive real-time data

Clothing that boasts health sensors and devices has potential to drive remote monitoring and give doctors access to real-time patient data more so than fitness devices like watches, writes Kathryn Wills, M.D., a smart textiles research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory and Coventry, in a commentary for The Guardian.

Wearable sensors can capture data that may revolutionize remote patient care, help patients live better lives, save providers money on hospital administration and free up patient beds, Wills says.

"Sensors placed on the right part of the body can provide detailed, real-time information," she writes. "Patients can be continuously monitored away from the hospital and if there is a warning sign, for example high blood pressure or swelling, medical professionals can be alerted."

Data from sensors can be used to create personal and custom recovery and treatment plans. Such data can also be used by the pharmaceuticals industry, Wills says, to further determine if drugs are doing their expected job for patients. An example, Wills notes, is an effort by the National Physical Laboratory and Coventry University to tap conductive circuits built into garment fibers that let a network of sensors be situated on patient clothing to monitor specific heath issues.

The market for wearable technology is expected to continue to grow, with IDC research estimating 72.1 million wearable devices being shipped this year.

In addition, wearable patch technology may soon be a worthwhile investment for providers and a valuable consumer tool, according to a Tractica report. Tractica forecasts worldwide unit shipments will hit 12.3 million annually by 2020, a big jump from the 67,000 shipped in 2014. The market is expected to increase to $3.3 billion annually, states the research.

For more information:
- read Willis' commentary