From robot vacuum cleaners to automated pet feeders and everything in between, advancements in technology have made their way into practically every aspect of human life — and the healthcare industry is no different! Technological innovations in the health and wellness space have made it possible to know more (and do more) about your health than ever before. But with so many apps and gadgets on the market, it can be challenging to keep track of what's available — let alone what's actually worth your time and money. That's why we're giving you a look at the latest health technology that could help you simplify your life while improving your health.
Innovations in Medical Wearables
From large diagnostic devices in hospitals to tiny health monitoring devices on your wrist (or even your finger!), these days, we're all familiar with wearable health technology. Medical "wearables" have proliferated in recent years as products like the Fitbit and the Apple Watch hit the market — and new health tech innovations only continue. From exciting new features for existing products to brand new technologies altogether, here are the types of smart devices to keep your eye on in 2023:
- Rings and watches. While these devices have been on the market for a while, products like the Apple Watch and the OURA ring continue to come out with new updates. Whether on your wrist or your finger, these smart devices can monitor and track important health data like heart rate, step count and sleep patterns. Recent product updates now offer additional capabilities like body temperature and blood oxygen readings. Learn more about these and other health-related gifts on the market.
- Clothing. In the coming years, you can expect to see many more medical wearables on the market — and much more than just the standard watches and rings! Companies are developing ways to incorporate health technology into other wearable items like shirts and socks. Smart clothing (or "connected clothing") utilizes sensors that are woven into the fabric in order to track standard biometric data. This gives users another option beyond the traditional wearable accessories and opens up new possibilities to connect these wearables with other household technology -- for example, what if your shirt could tell your home's heat to turn on when your body started to cool down?
- Patches and implants. Smart patches are an emerging type of wearable device that attach to the skin (or sometimes just under the skin, in the case of an implant) in order to monitor specific health markers or to deliver medication over an extended period of time. These devices are made to be less noticeable than a smart watch or other accessory, however, they can still monitor similar health data such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels and body temperature. These sensors can also detect and alert you and your doctor to any possible changes in your health markers. And since these devices can deliver medicine through the skin, they are also an effective way to treat conditions like pain and diabetes over an extended period of time.
- Hearing aids. In recent years, technological innovations have made for huge strides in the hearing aid industry — allowing users a more discreet and customizable experience. Not only do hearing aids now come in many more sizes, styles, colors and performance types (and have been updated to better work around things like glasses and face masks) but they also have many more capabilities — including hands-free smartphone connectivity, improved capabilities for computer video chat and connectivity with other internet-based household items. In fact, Oticon Own recently announced a new line of products featuring proprietary "BrainHearing" technology, which was developed to help the brain make sense of sounds in complicated listening environments (such as a crowded restaurant or office).
Take Advantage of Helpful Health Apps
These days, it's common to use health apps to do things like track calories, find workout videos and monitor your sleep. And let's face it: we already know about the most popular diet and fitness tracking apps — they’ve been around practically as long as our smart phones! But with new app categories popping up every day, we thought we'd highlight a few types of helpful health apps that you might not already utilize:
- Medication delivery and price comparison apps. Pharmacy delivery apps have exploded since the beginning of the pandemic, with so many more people requiring a way to have their medications delivered directly to their home. If you haven’t already, consider taking advantage of this convenient service! While you're at it, try out a price comparison app to view medication options and cost differences between multiple pharmacies. You might even be able to save some money on your prescriptions!
- Health reminder apps. If you don't already use a reminder app, consider using one to remind you of important health goals — such as taking your daily medications, refilling monthly prescriptions, regularly drinking water, exercising and more. Having easy access to these reminders wherever you go (as well as a convenient place to track your progress) could be just what you need to elevate your health routine. If you suffer from a chronic illness, there may even be apps that are tailored to help you keep track of health objectives unique to your condition.
- Electronic medical records and patient portals. An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of the chart your doctor maintains, which holds your medical history (diagnoses, treatments, etc.). An EMR makes it easier to access your own health information online and share it with other doctors as necessary. While digital medical records have been around for a while, the pandemic (and the increased use of telemedicine) necessitated industry-wide adoption and improvement of these technologies. Now, most healthcare providers offer access to comprehensive patient portals, which — in addition to accessing your medical records — allow you to do things like request prescription reauthorizations and schedule appointments online. If you're not already set up on your doctor's patient portal, it's time to see what convenient features you’re missing out on! If you're an El Camino Health patient, take a moment to familiarize yourself with myCare — our free online tool where patients can access their medical records, securely chat with their provider, view test results, review and pay bills and more.
New advancements in health technology will help you continue to get the most effective, personalized medical care possible — as long as you’re utilizing the tools that are available to you! Start the new year fresh by considering how you could better implement health technology in your daily life.
This article first appeared in the December 2022 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.