Wearables, automation and empowering patient care
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Wearables, automation and empowering patient care

Automation is quickly revolutionising medical practice management, but how does it fit into the age of wellness wearables – and how can it really help your patients? In this article, we deconstruct the definition of automation and what it means to empowering patient care in the age of wellness wearables.

Defining automation in healthcare

In simple terms, automation is the use of technological systems, such as computers or robots, which use different processes and machineries to ‘automatically’ complete repetitive tasks.

Applied to healthcare, automation can be a powerful way to let technology do time-consuming, labour-intensive, repetitive or mundane tasks. This helps open up more time to focus on patient experience and quality of care.

Empowering patients to monitor their own health

Automation is set to become more helpful in empowering patients to monitor their own health and wellbeing. A recent report released by KPMG, Healthcare reimagined: Innovation trends, predictions and actions for healthcare leaders, found that technology innovations are spearheading change, both in terms of consumer expectations and healthcare service offerings.

Already, there are new innovative devices including ultrasounds, ECG monitors, microscopes and dermatoscopes that can view skin cancers and blood pressure monitors that can be plugged into a smartphone. A picture of an inner ear or throat taken on a smart phone can help a doctor diagnose and infection. There are even smart health devices and wearables to track and monitor lung health and medication usage for asthma patients.

And we are seeing great inroads in wellness wearables, such as ihealth’s innovative blood pressure, weight management and diabetes monitoring wearables and oximeters. Meanwhile Propell Health, the Australian partner of the company, are driving their easy-to-use and award-winning wearables in the local market, making it simple for consumers to accurately measure, track and share a full range of health vitals.

“The age of wellness wearables is definitely here,” GP and MedicalDirector’s Chief Clinical Advisor, Dr Charlotte Middelton, said. “Whether it is the middle ear devices that monitor your heart rate, the wearables on your wrist that tell you how you’re sleeping, or the ECG monitors that go around your chest – there are so many exciting technology concepts that can really enhance the care we provide as doctors.”

With help from automation, patients can even be prompted to check their weight, pulse, or oxygen levels, and enter results into mobile patient portals. They can transmit the results to my doctor in real time.

Those details, when entered regularly, can help predict one’s risk for heart disease and other illnesses, ultimately saving lives. One app even allows you to scan your vital signs just by placing the phone on your forehead to measure heart rate, and body temperature.

Empowering doctors to provide better patient care

According to Dr Middelton, wearables also have the benefit of automating often time-consuming and manual processes, to allow doctors to make more informed diagnosis and treatment plans.

“Wearables are already tracking data such as heart rate, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and other vital statistics, taking the pressure off the patient to manually complete these analyses. Doctors and nurses can then download the readings for a complete picture of a patient’s health,” she said in a feature published on PC World. “Heavy patient loads for doctors and a shortage of medical staff in remote areas can limit the amount of in-clinic or hospital visits for patients.”

“However through the use of wearables, medical personnel can conduct remote patient monitoring. Similarly, in the event of a health scare or crisis, patients can quickly send data to their medical team for analysis.”

The future looks promising

According to MedicalDirector’s CEO, Matthew Bardsley, increased education in the healthcare sector about ways in which patients and practitioners can better leverage technology, automation and wearables to optimise and share wellness data, can open up a fresh wave of opportunities to enable more ideal healthcare and a more patient-centric approach.

“The future looks promising,” he said. “The digitally enabled practitioner will be able to see their next patient, well-equipped with the same wealth of data that the patient has on their own wellness apps and devices – and more. The clinical visit will be more open, accurate and efficient, while the patient and practitioner relationship will become more trusting, personalised and transparent.”