AI Talk: Wearable technology in health care

September 30th, 2019 / By V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD

This week’s AI Talk…

Future of wearables

A recent paper published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology gave a good summary of the role of wearable technologies in health care. The authors, who hail from MD Anderson, Mayo and other healthcare institutions, make the obvious point that you need a multidisciplinary team to sort through and work with the sea of data from scores of devices. FitBit trackers, Vivoactive smartwatch and the Apple watch, to name a few, collect a range of data—steps taken, distance walked, heart rate, and now EKG data. We can also get sleep quality data and anything the user wants to report, from food intake to moods to self-reporting of symptoms. The question is how you collect, store, manage and interpret this dataset. And how do we develop AI solutions that can customize advice, monitor compliance, and alert patient and caregivers at the appropriate times. The promise of these types of solutions is clear, but to realize the benefits will take some time—and FDA approval and the completion of a number of randomized clinical trials.

Alexa in your ear

CNBC notes that Amazon Alexa is going to be released in wireless earbuds. In addition to standard Alexa functionality, it will track your fitness such as distance run, calories burned, etc. This is Amazon’s first foray into the wearable healthcare space, although the company had made its intention abundantly clear when it formed a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase in a project dubbed “Haven.” This week it is rolling out telehealth for its 50,000 plus employees in the Seattle area.

Roster of apps

in a google search, I found a collection of fairly recent articles on wearables, which I found quite interesting. One article lists companies focused on wearables in health care, including menstrual tracking for women; a watch for strength training; an ECG tracker; a ring that monitors sleep; traditional smart watches for tracking activity and heart conditions; tools that track steps and offer wellness coaching; fitness tracking for children; tracking UV exposure; tracking sleep and oxygen levels of babies; tracking temperature of babies; and sleep monitoring. Wow! And this list is probably just scratching the surface of what is happening in the world of wearables. Another article lists wearables used in real-time monitoring, such as medication compliance tracking and a patch that sends real-time signals on a patient’s health condition. All of these devices have the potential to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations and provide actionable intelligence for population health management.

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V. “Juggy” Jagannathan, PhD, is Director of Research for 3M M*Modal and is an AI Evangelist with four decades of experience in AI and Computer Science research.