Docs: Wearable devices a possible game changer in medical care

As wearable devices invade the healthcare market, doctors are mulling how data from the technology can change the face of medical care.

Researchers are conducting more and more studies on the potential of wearables to keep patients healthy and to help them recover from illness faster, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

For instance, last year, according to the article, doctors gave patients with Type 2 diabetes pedometers that sent motivational tips through text messages. The study showed that those who received the tips did a better job of controlling their blood sugar.

Meanwhile, at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Fitbit was used to track activity of cardiac-surgery patients, according to WSJ. Patients were discharged sooner if they recorded a higher level of post-surgical activity.

"With all the device and genetic data we're going to get on you, it's a whole new era of personalized care that's going to emerge," Joseph Kvedar, director of the Boston-based Partners HealthCare Center for Connected Health.

However, there are still a lot barriers to overcome before these gadgets can truly be adopted, including privacy and security concerns, worries over reliability of the data and technical issues involving collecting and analyzing information.

Additionally, patients must be willing to use and stick with such devices. A recent Rock Health report on wearables found that many devices are "failing to engage users over meaningful periods of time." More than 80 percent of consumer device use drops off after 18 months, according to the study.

With Apple, Google and Samsung throwing their hats into the proverbial wearables ring, use of such devices could increase. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent move to step back from regulating medical device data systems could pave the way for smoother medical device interoperability.

To learn more:
- read the WSJ article