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The Future of Health Monitoring with Consumer Gadgets

Stephanie Chung — McMaster Honours Life Sciences 2023

As technology continues to progress and aid in daily activities, people nowadays are growing increasingly dependent upon their smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices. With this trend, there is a growing market and consumer base for individuals to use health monitoring devices in order to keep track of the status of their bodies. These gadgets are either wearable or embedded into an individual’s environment(1) and able to keep track of health vitals, fitness and specialized health concerns. The overall goal of health monitoring consumer gadgets are to report accurate results for users, thus involving monitoring and storing data pertaining to the consumer. The ways in which results are monitored vary based on the specific technology and goal of the technological wear, such as through sensors on the products and microcontrollers(2). Depending on the device, different sensors are able to obtain measurements such as temperature, heart pulse/rhythm, blood sugar levels and other data pertaining to the purpose of the gadget.

Popular gadgets include smart watches, headbands and some devices tailored towards individuals with certain medical needs that measure blood pressure (bp) and asthma monitors. Smart watches have been targeted towards the general public as a means of being able to keep track of heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, sleep and activity levels, blood oxygen and even electrocardiograms(3). These watches have also been seamlessly integrated with common conveniences many use, such as being able to send and receive messages, phone calls, notifications, etc., in a small and portable form-factor. Smart headbands, like electroencephalography (EEG) headbands, have been developed to monitor the mental health of individuals through being used for meditation, measuring breathing patterns and heart rate(4). EEG devices monitor and offer the user feedback on their measurements in hopes of aiding them to become a more skilled meditator(5). Blood pressure monitors that are portable are convenient as they may be used anywhere and can track trends and changes. This information may be used in order to see if a physician is required to intervene in cases where vitals are abnormal (e.g. bp might be too high, indicating hypertension) and subsequent new course of action is required(6). In addition, asthma monitors, such as a Peak Flow Meter are useful as they take measurements daily regarding the expiratory flow rate of an individual and allows the user to keep track of changes if  they occur(7). This serves as an indicator and tool to help determine whether intervention is required and how the individual’s asthma is being managed(7).

As wearable technology is gaining popularity, there is the proposal of using wearable sensors a few days prior to physical examinations, thus relying upon the sensors to gather data pertaining to the patient’s vitals(1). This will collect measurements regarding your body’s physiological state (temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate) and thus practitioners will be able to use the longitudinal information gathered in order to assess and evaluate the patient’s health(1). As this has yet to be achieved, it is in the midst of being implemented in order to improve the healthcare of individuals through being able to more accurately diagnose patients as well as be more time-efficient to aid more people. This can be compared to blood pressure and asthma monitors that are indicative to physicians of a patient’s status and aid them in figuring out a course of action. In conclusion, as technology and medicine continue to be intertwined, there will be more products targeting specific health conditions. It can even be seen that smart watches which began as tracking steps and calories are now able to measure heart rate and other features. At the current rate of advancement, the future of wearable technology is optimistic and will arrive much sooner than you think.  

References

  1. Saha HN, Auddy S, Pal S, Kumar S, Pandey S, Singh R, et al. Health monitoring using internet of things (IoT). IEEE [Internet]. 2017 Aug [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=8079564&casa_token=jwv9nHnrRlIAAAAA:MoWMU7oLdXuDIpHJlowbN2ktjtAdoJVICUvIhuOQPkzmTJSCZlbuuthkziEpbmB0cFDo-jsAuA
  2. Goel AK. Modern electronics wearable gadgets for health monitoring. STM Journals [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 6(2): 11-16. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anuj-Goel-3/publication/335977272_Modern_Electronics_Wearable_Gadgets_for_Health_Monitoring/links/5f0c44ea4585155a552500db/Modern-Electronics-Wearable-Gadgets-for-Health-Monitoring.pdf
  3. Baig EC. Newest smartwatches move from tracking fitness to monitoring health [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: AARP; 2020 Sep [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from: https://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-2020/smartwatches.html
  4. Hunkin H, King DL, Zajac, IT. Perceived acceptability of wearable devices for the treatment of mental health problems. J. Clin. Psychol [Internet]. 2020 Feb [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 76(6): 987-1003. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jclp.22934?casa_token=TSfIUFNgwI4AAAAA%3A6NZ696F7IN7hiPiaOtIKpbD9zgVqYSx9vE4j6-x8D-ZfTdOna7zN3_GO6d2cy6r4by0uBPXeYKQsQ6BM
  5. Balconi M, Fronda G, Venturella I, Crivelli D. Conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious mechanisms in emotional behaviour. Some applications to the mindfulness approach with wearable devices. Appl. Sci [Internet]. 2017 Dec [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 7(12): 1-14. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/7/12/1280/htm
  6. Harvard Medical School. The benefits of do-it-yourself blood pressure monitoring [Internet]. Harvard University in Massachusetts, United States: Harvard Health Publishing; 2018 July [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-benefits-of-do-it-yourself-blood-pressure-monitoring
  7. Asthma Canada. Peak flow meters [Internet]. Toronto, Canada: Asthma Canada; 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from: https://asthma.ca/get-help/living-with-asthma/peak-flow-meters/

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