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Sensor technology is revolutionizing diagnostic capabilities in the healthcare industry and is even playing a role in treatment and patient management. According to Statistics, in 2011, the remote cardiac monitoring service market was valued at $686 million in the United States, and it is projected to reach $867 million by the end of 2016. Wearable monitors allow doctors and patients alike to keep an eye on our health and plan our lifestyles based on a rich aggregation of bio-data, such as blood sugar levels and heart rate. Health care providers need to stay on top of this trend to maximize their effectiveness and plan for the future. So just what current trends are making waves right now?
Wearable tech is all the rage these days. From smartphone and smartwatch apps to wearable health monitors, information is available to both consumers and healthcare professionals like never before. On the consumer side, health trackers (like those by FitBit) are tracking vital health stats and syncing them with smartphones, tablets and computers, enabling people to monitor their fitness levels, set goals and design programs. It is projected that 81.7 million Americans will be using wearable devices by 2018, up from 27.4 million in 2015. On the professional side, physicians and technicians are now able to fit patients with high-performance monitors like Biotricity's Bioflux. Bioflux tracks and sends real-time ECG stats to health care facilities, where they are then analyzed with sophisticated software programs. This means that patients get to spend more time at home, and doctors get better information that's based on patients' real-life behavior. According to Soreon Research, the market for wearable technology in healthcare will grow to $41 billion worldwide in 2020, up from $2 billion in 2014, and it's all thanks to tiny sensors that record and send information to patients and physicians.
Wearable devices can even remind patients when it's time to take their medications or check their blood sugar levels. Electronic pill boxes can also let patients know when the next dose is due, making home health care safer than ever. This is particularly handy for diabetes patients or patients with chronic illnesses that require large and complex quantities of medication.
In addition to wearable devices, smart pills are beginning to make a presence in the healthcare industry. Equipped with sensors and/or cameras, smart pills can record and track ingestion times. Cameras in particular will have great diagnostic implications as they can enhance other procedures such as colonoscopies. Instead of an invasive scope requiring general anesthetic, patients will only need to swallow a pill to provide doctors with diagnostic imagery.
Safety for patients – safety for care providers
Today's sensor-based technologies provide more than the ability to track vital systems – they are also tools for tracking patient location and ensuring safety. For example, Ekahau's Wi-Fi enabled badges can be worn by patients to track their activity levels and movement history, including movement into dangerous or restricted zones. Additionally, traceable badges, smartphone GPS tracking and other means can be used to ensure that the whereabouts of isolated employees are known at all times.
Embracing the futureRemote sensor technology is changing the way healthcare is administered. While its implementation isn't yet universal, the day is soon coming when the field will be dominated by interconnected technologies.
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David Ryan has many years of experience as a freelance writer and is active covering science and technology stories in the United States. He also enjoys writing short stories and traveling.