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Research Roundup: The Impact of Wearables on Healthcare

Tuesday, April 18, 2017   • Posted by Erika Vázquez

We may only be a few months into 2017, but the impact of wearables on healthcare research and clinical trials are already making headlines. Multiple industry publications and clinical journals have been featuring articles highlighting the potential of wearable technology to improve lives and expand our knowledge of human health.

Here are just a few of the studies and partnerships enabled by the impact of wearables on healthcare in 2017.

Disease Detection

Stanford University published the results of a study in PLOS Biology which found “wearables may know the user is getting sick before they even do.”

Researchers studied 2 billion measurements from 60 subjects that indicated sensors are useful in detecting early signs of Lyme disease and inflammatory responses. The devices also recognized insulin differences that could potentially identify people at risk for type II diabetes.

The paper predicts that in the future wearable biosensors “will be used by physicians to help assess health states and guide recommendations and treatments.”

Mental Health Diagnosis

Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Cognition Kit are “collaborating on a study to assess whether mobile apps and wearables with continuous monitoring capabilities can be used to glean new insights into major depressive disorder that could drive better treatment.”

MobiHealth News explains the study aims to “use continuous monitoring to catch under-recognized symptoms of major depressive disorder, thereby providing a more holistic view of the user’s mental health.”

Cancer Rehabilitation

Researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are currently recruiting subjects for a trial to evaluate the use of exercise trackers for promoting physical activity during cancer rehabilitation.

Diabetes Management

Wareable covered the variety of form-factors currently being evaluated for glucose tracking and diabetes management. Potential solutions range from Verily’s glucose-reading contact lens endeavor to disposable wearable patches developed at Seoul National University that inject drugs into the bloodstream.

In February, Abbott Diabetes Care shared real world evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of the company’s wearable FreeStyle Libre System for glucose monitoring.

Neurodegenerative Disease Treatment

Researchers at the University of Rochester have already collected 25 million measurements with novel sensors. Their goal is to improve the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. Investigators combine data from wearable sensors with machine learning algorithms to classify and categorize attributes at various stages of disease progression.

Dehydration Prevention

The sweat sensing patch from John Rogers’s lab made its way to this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Researchers teamed up with the National Kidney Foundation to promote hydration at the event.

Pain Management

Purdue Pharmaceuticals has teamed up with Geisinger Health System to help people with chronic pain manage (and even decrease) their pain medication intake.

Over 200 subjects will use Apple Watches and a corresponding app to monitor their activity, sleep, pain, and medication adherence with the goal of understanding “how pain impacts the patient’s life and how medication is being used to manage it.”

Eating Disorder Evaluation

At Drexel University, researchers are leveraging mobile technology to evaluate binge eating disorder and bulimia. The research team will compare objective data captured from wearable sensors to subject-reported notes on negative emotions and eating urges to determine whether physiological signs “could detect rising urges to engage in binge eating behavior even better than self-reporting data.”

Study researchers envision a future where “they can use this data to design a new kind of app — one that is synched up to a wearable device that can send a warning when a user is going to engage in unhealthy eating behavior.”

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