Lisa Hedges

Optimizing Wearables

By Lisa Hedges
Lisa Hedges

Inaccurate data entry, discomfort and privacy concerns are among the issues that developers and designers must address to realize the promise of medical wearables.

Medical wearables have come a long way, from the first implantable pacemaker in 1958 to the first commercially approved glucose monitor in 1999. In fact, a recent publication on the evolution of wearables with real-time disease monitoring cited wearables as the future of personalized healthcare.

There’s no question that modern wearables have the potential to save lives and jumpstart the preventative care revolution. With technological advances, wearable devices have become available to an even wider audience, with commercial devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit driving down prices, making them more affordable for the masses. Both devices are credited for notifying users of medical emergencies and improving overall health.

Despite wearables’ advanced technology, one in five patients say their wearable device is hard to use, according to a Software Advice survey of more than 450 U.S. patients who currently use medically prescribed wearables. This often leads to inputting inaccurate data, creating a slippery slope for widespread medical adoption as doctors could misdiagnose or mistreat patients.

It’s up to the medical device designers, scientists and engineers to ensure that their products are easy to use and provide accurate information. Following are five ways to make wearables more accurate and effective for patients:

1. Audit user experience data to learn from inaccurate data collection.

The majority of patients who are manually inputting data (87%) have recorded inaccurate data on their wearable devices. It is imperative for developers to collect user experience data and then identify where inaccurate data entry is taking place. From there, they can analyze how that information is being communicated with healthcare providers, and use that data to make better informed decisions on design.

2. Revamp UI/UX to address usability issues.

Of the 87% of patients who have inaccurately recorded data, 85% say the error occurred because the user interface was hard to understand. Keep in mind that many medical wearable users are elderly patients who might not be as technologically advanced as their younger counterparts. User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX) is arguably the most fundamental aspect of a medical wearable device as it accounts for usability and accurate data collection.

3. Keep comfort top of mind when developing wearables.

Even if you have the best UI/UX on the market, physical comfort is a top priority for consumers. Comfort can make or break your wearable from a business perspective. The first commercially approved glucose monitors failed because users couldn’t bear the discomfort and collection method. Flashforward to now, and glucose monitors are far more comfortable and even connect with your smartphone for ease of use.

Comfort can manifest in a variety of ways, from ensuring your wrist wearable has an adjustable strap for all sizes, to the fabric and materials that are used. More invasive wearables, such as heart monitors and glucose collectors, need to be painless and easily hidden under clothes. Patients are far more likely to stay consistent with a wearable health program when the device caters to their needs.

4. Address potential security vulnerabilities.

Taking the time to vet your devices against security threats is extremely important to ensure that patients’ privacy concerns are addressed. In fact, 39% of survey respondents cite “security vulnerabilities with sensitive data” as the biggest drawback of prescribed wearables.

For most wearable devices, the onus is on developers to ensure the software has built-in protections against data loss, hacking or other vulnerabilities. Doctors are the ones prescribing new devices, and developers must keep in mind that data will likely be shared from the device to the providers’ EHR platforms.

5. Develop comprehensive tech support for providers and patients.

Prescribers and patients need comprehensive instruction on how to accurately use and get the most out of their devices. It’s important to ensure your team is providing a strong introduction to the device when selling to consumers at-large or providers as well as robust tech support.

As a developer, your device is only as good as the results it provides for patients. This is why you must clearly and effectively communicate how it works in the form of “how-to” collateral materials and 24/7 tech support. When a patients’ health is on the line, these are all musts for any medical device company.

Wearables are the future of personalized health care and remote patient monitoring. As wearable technologies evolve, it is important for developers to think about the patient first and the providers who will rely on accurate data to make more informed diagnoses and treatment plans. Designers should take into consideration the recommendations above to help them create more personalized and effective solutions that ultimately lead to better health outcomes.

About The Author

Lisa Hedges