Wearable technology and the unique challenges of Covid-19
Covid-19 has caused a complete rethink of healthcare for many as the spectre of lockdowns, states of emergency, and quarantines become reality for increasing numbers of people around the western world. Those accustomed to prompt and thorough medical attention are being told to stay in their homes and practice self-care in order to alleviate unnecessary stresses on hospitals and care facilities, and are as well encouraged to avoid any contact with others outside of only necessary grocery shopping and urgent health care.
These steps, necessary to prevent the transmission of the virus, are unfortunately also the hardest on the those who are simultaneously the most affected—the elderly. Covid-19 has many unknowns as we study datasets updating in real time, but the one consistent characteristic seems to be the disproportionally serious effect on our aging population, as the fatality rate unfortunately increases dramatically for those over 60 and worsens as age rises. This creates a troubling dilemma—how do we care for those in the most vulnerable sector, while maintaining social distancing vital to preventing the further spread of the virus? There are several options that may be useful, and of those wearable tech may be uniquely positioned to at least partly solve the problem.
With commonly available devices that can be worn and will monitor vital signs, a caregiver can easily log in to an app and check on a patient or loved one from offsite, and thus minimize the number of visits and consequently the chances of transmission
to the vulnerable.
A simple watch or pendant can provide the necessary information normally acquired through an in-home visit, and in conjunction with video calling can, if not replace, at least somewhat replicate an in-home visit with an elderly person. Allowing a son or daughter to check on their senior parent without risking transmission means both peace of mind for the family and reducing the chances of conveyance within society, something that was simply not possible before the advent of wearable technology. And furthermore, advances in miniaturization will allow more coverage with monitoring technology both worn on and implanted into patients, with results uploaded into a cloud network available to medical professionals able to observe the health status of numerous patients and directing care while minimizing contact and efficiently utilizing resources.
As we eventually recover and start to learn lessons from the first real pandemic of the western world, perhaps the utilization of technology to facilitate social distancing while continuing to care for those in need will teach us how to reduce the severity of outbreaks in the future and hopefully allow us to draw some positive from an otherwise grave situation.