Healthcare information technology (IT) was a $74.2 billion global industry in 2020. Moreover, experts believe it will grow at a yearly compounded rate of 10.7% from 2020 to 2028.
All those stats highlight the increasing demand for healthcare technology. Fortunately, consumers can now access many of these innovations. It’s even likely that you already own at least one of these incredible inventions!
In any case, we’ll go through some of the best health-and-tech products that you can find in the market today. Read on to discover what these are and how exactly they can help you stay healthy, safe, and sane.
An estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide own smartphones. More people have access to smartphones, too, as they can be far more affordable than computers. Their portability, paired with their connectivity, also makes them ideal for healthcare purposes.
For starters, there are over a million health and well-being apps in Google Play and Apple App Store. These are all downloadable to Android and iOS devices. Some are for exercises, meditation, and diets, while others can even help track your H2O intake.
Smartphones, as well as tablets, also serve as a medium for telemedicine.
Telemedicine, in turn, is the use of smart tech to deliver remote healthcare services. This pairing of technology and healthcare paved the way for digital outpatient visits. These virtual check-ups accounted for over 30% of outpatient visits early in 2020.
With your smartphone, you can say hello to your doctor without even leaving your home. Being able to speak to a live person, in itself, can help counter the effects of loneliness. Plus, you’ll be talking to a healthcare professional who has actual medical expertise.
Just make sure you keep your device usage at a minimum! At the very least, stop looking at your devices 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Doing so can help prep your body to transition more smoothly to sleep.
Smartwatches can monitor health signs like heart rate and irregular heart rhythm. Many of these smart time-telling wearables can also pinpoint the user’s location. Most, such as Apple and this medical alert watch, also have fall detection features.
Some models, like the Apple Watch, rely on mobile technology, too. Most models can work without a smartphone, but syncing the two unlocks more features.
In any case, here’s a quick overview of the tech behind smartwatches.
Heart Rate Trackers
Smartwatches can keep track of heart rate through Optical Heart Rate Monitoring. Most wearables do this through the technology called Photoplethysmography (PPG).
PPG utilizes a light source and a photodetector directed at the surface of the skin. From there, it captures volume-related changes in blood circulation. It then uses the readings to measure heart rate.
Irregular Heart Rhythm Monitors
Newer smartwatch models now also come with an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG). Apple was the first to introduce this after its massive Apple Heart Study. The goal of the ECG/EKG smartwatch technology is to help catch signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Atrial fibrillation is a serious medical condition characterized by arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. It can cause heart diseases, complications, and even cardiovascular failure. Some 2.7 million people in the US alone have AFib.
Dote note that ECG functionalities in smartwatches aren’t always accurate. However, they can still be helpful in catching early signs of irregular heart rhythm.
Smartwatches feature an accelerometer, a device that can measure acceleration. In smart wearables, this technology senses falls by determining a user’s position, too.
Most models also have a built-in system that notifies a user’s emergency contact during a fall. This feature makes it valuable for family members of older adults who are prone to falls.
3. Virtual Therapist
Almost 20% of US adults, equivalent to 51.5 million in 2019, have a mental illness. Anxiety disorder (AD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) are two of the most common.
Unfortunately, very few patients seek treatment for their mental health conditions.
The stigma surrounding mental illnesses is a top reason people forego treatment. For many others, feelings of fear or shame may be a hindrance to seeking help. There’s also the high cost of healthcare, and in some cases, a lack of access to therapists.
These are some of the barriers that artificial intelligence (AI) aims to address. A good example of AI-based healthcare technology is the chatbot called Woebot. It works like an instant messaging service, wherein you chat with an AI therapist.
Woebot asks users about their feelings, moods, and thoughts. It then uses the collected data to offer applicable cognitive behavior therapy.
Do note that AI-based psychotherapists can’t replace real doctors. It’s always best to reach out to an actual person if you or someone you care about experiences symptoms. However, AI programs can help ease some of the signs, especially as you can access them 24/7.
4. Virtual Reality
Experts valued the global virtual reality (VR) sector at $15.81 billion in 2020.
Now, VR may seem to be mostly for video gamers, and while they make up a large part of the market, they’re not the only users. Nowadays, they’re playing a huge part in the training process for professionals. Think pilots, engineers, and soldiers, among many others.
What’s more, researchers found that VR videos were helpful during 2020’s quarantine. They noted how immersive videos could help alleviate stress and isolation. The study’s participants even reported feeling calmer despite the lockdown.
However, VR has had several potential benefits even before the pandemic.
For example, some doctors have recommended its use to older patients. According to them, the interactive features of VR can help keep the effects of isolation at bay. Even before that (as in back in the 1990s), was VR’s promising positive effects on reducing pain.
Healthcare Technology at the Comfort of Your Home
Healthcare technology, so long as used properly, can prove to be beneficial to users. Used in moderation, smartphones, and VR can help reduce the impact of isolation. Smartwatches can help you monitor your health signs, while AI chatbots may be able to help you smile.
Best of all, most of these products are affordable, so they can be a great addition to your household devices.
Interested to learn more about the impact of technology in healthcare? Then please feel free to check out our other tech, health, and lifestyle resources!