The wearable future comes to medical practices
Smart glasses and other wearable technologies could become as ubiquitous in the exam room as a stethoscope or blood pressure cuff, giving doctors not only another tool to deliver quality care but helping to bolster their personal connections with patients.
“There is a real phenomenon that doctors feel they’re staring at screens and not making eye contact with patients. But [wearable devices] could free you up so you can be more efficient and be more present with the patient while you do your work,” says Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, vice president of Connected Health at Partners HeathCare, a health IT consulting firm. “And we know that better relationships with patients almost always correlate to better outcomes for the patients.”
Indeed, wearable technologies are already making inroads in medicine, says Steve Collens, chief executive officer of MATTER, a Chicago-based incubator for innovators and entrepreneurs in healthcare. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if in five years the majority of doctors are using wearables in their day-to-day practices. I don’t know what that will be yet, but I have no doubt it will be coming soon,” he says.
Leading the pack of contender wearable devices are smart glasses and head-mounted devices. Some of these tools give clinicians access to medical records, patient vital signs or medical instructions right in their fields of view, so they don’t have to look away from their patients to search for information using a keyboard.
Other smart glasses offer two-way audio and visual capabilities, allowing a healthcare provider in one location to consult with a clinician elsewhere who can see and hear everything the treating physician can.
These wearables are already available, and others are coming soon, says Angela McIntyre, a research director at research firm Gartner Inc. who covers wearable electronics. As an example, she points to Vocera Communication Badge, a hands-free device that enables secure communications either one-to-one or one-to-many in healthcare settings such as medical offices and hospitals.