The idea of wearable health devices is not new. In fact, the history of wearable hearing aids goes back many decades. What is new is how far wearable technology has come.
Today’s technology can do a lot with very little space. This makes it possible to develop wearable health monitoring devices that can do a lot. Most readers know at least one person with a wearable fitness tracker or smartwatch. You might even own and wear one.
Beyond these consumer devices, there have been incredible breakthroughs for diagnostic wearables. These are true healthcare devices that a person can wear to assist with the diagnosis of illness and disease.
This post will look at some of the advances that helped make these wearable healthcare devices possible.
Wearable Fitness Trackers
Much of the technology that led to wearable diagnostic devices started with consumer technology. These devices can track things like heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep, and physical activity. They can be helpful to those looking to improve or maintain health.
These health wearables have also gotten much more popular in recent years. A Pew Research survey conducted in 2019 showed that 21% of US adults already wear fitness trackers or smart watches regularly. A more recent survey from ValuePenguin indicates that many more adults are open to the idea of wearing one. In that survey, almost 70% of participants said they would wear a fitness tracker if they could get a discount on health insurance.
While these devices are not diagnostic wearables, they use some of the same technologies. They also served as inspiration for healthcare professionals and researchers. It is easy to see how tracking and analyzing this information could benefit patients. Beyond that, it had researchers considering other types of health questions that wearable health solutions could ask and answer.
Onward to Wearable Diagnostic Devices
Significant developments have opened up a world of opportunities for people to use wearable diagnostic devices. Part of it is in electronics. As technology has developed, it has been possible to make smaller sensors that can fit in wearable devices.
Beyond that, you also have developments in biocompatible materials. With these materials, researchers can develop wearables that can be partially implanted. You also have developments like e-textiles that make it possible to put sensors in clothing.
Diagnostic wearables are also benefiting from developments in microneedle technology. Microneedles are several times smaller than the standard needles you might be accustomed to seeing in a healthcare setting. As small as they are, they are much less invasive. They can also be deployed in small patches to draw samples for analysis.
A New Wearable on the Horizon
One new wearable diagnostic device is the diaPatch™ from Curiva. This device intends to aid in the detection of cervical cancer initially and other women’s cancer long-term.
Current cervical cancer diagnostics have several drawbacks. One of the first is that they are invasive. Women often express anxiety at the idea of getting a Pap smear because of the speculum cervical swab. What makes it worse is that these tests are hardly foolproof.
Current testing methods have a reputation for missing a high percentage of true positives. That means the diagnosis is missed, and the condition will persist for longer without the necessary treatment. As you can imagine, this leads to worse healthcare outcomes for many women.
The diaPatch™ outperforms conventional testing methods in several ways. First, it is a non-invasive wearable diagnostic device. A healthcare professional can place the patch on the patient’s external pelvic area. The patient then wears the patch for 30 minutes while the microneedles collect fluid for testing. Finally, the patch can be removed, and results can be given during the same visit.
As you can see, this is much less invasive and faster than the current alternative. However, the benefits go beyond that. The diaPatch™ is much more accurate. It has a sensitivity of 98% compared to 55.4% for a Pap smear. That means fewer false negatives for patients.
The product is still in development, but the results have been promising so far. Once available to the broader public, diagnostic wearables like the diaPatch™ could significantly benefit patients and healthcare professionals.
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