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The Challenges and Benefits of Wearable Technology


Nurses and healthcare professionals are increasingly using wearable technology as a tool in the workplace. While the devices offer some challenges to implementation, the benefits will soon outweigh the drawbacks. Wearable technology can improve communications and record keeping and alert caregivers to patients’ declining status faster than traditional means. As the field matures, more institutions will adopt the technology.

Wearable Technology Is Still Maturing

Traditionally, nurses check each patient’s vitals every four to six hours and as needed. [1] Wearable technology can check an unlimited number of patients every second. While this information is insightful, the volume can overwhelm caregivers. Additionally, there is no means to identify when these readings are inaccurate.
Some larger institutions can afford new technology implementation, but cost is an issue for facilities with smaller budgets. [2] These caregiving enterprises must find a balance between quality and expense, resorting to recertified equipment when necessary.

When implementing caregiving technology, there is a time gap between implementation and desired performance improvements; learning a new system to gather and record information takes time. Medical associations have yet to establish best practices for wearable technology and the corresponding expected improvements. This fact offers little quantifiable value for caregiving institutions.

Wearable technology is relatively new. [1] Privacy is a top concern in the medical field. Although digital content laws exist, lawmakers have not authored specific rules protecting the information gathered by these devices. The technology is in its infancy, and wearable manufacturers have not directly addressed security issues in the medical field.

Modern healthcare systems utilize many individual units, each with their own information resources and goals. Therefore, each discipline has a limited view of patients’ backgrounds. For now, each wearable technology implementation requires customization for its intended discipline, and caregivers will continue to miss many service improvement opportunities until medical establishments unify their information networks.

Wearable Technology Offers Many Advances

Patients have grown accustomed to wearing monitoring apparatus during hospitalization. While proceeding through the workday, wearable technology allows nurses to monitor their charges continually. The devices can also alert nurses to the most critical events occurring among their patients. Additionally, nurse supervisors can use the aggregated patient statuses to determine workloads.
The medical profession continuously revises practices to improve patient outcomes. [3] A current trend in the medical field is actively encouraging patients to increase their participation in their own wellness care and planning. Wearable technology can assist in this effort by creating a transparent link between patients and caregivers.

Staff members can increase internal communications effectiveness using wearable devices, which can drastically reduce the workload related to sharing information. [4] Wearable technology communications are faster than traditional methods and can almost eliminate overhead paging.

Nurses can use wearable technology to assist them with their daily tasks by using the devices to remind them of caregiving activities such as administering medication. [1] They can also receive alerts when a patient’s health declines before the patient is aware of the issue. The technology can also record these occurrences, eliminating manual chart entry.

Fatigue is a major concern for healthcare workers. Wearable technology can monitor employee health and alert supervisors when medical staff members overwork themselves. Administrators can also use the devices to predict staffing needs.

Wearable technology is the latest innovation adopted by medical professionals. The devices improve overall performance, but there are still issues that manufacturers must address before medical practitioners fully accept the technology. Despite these shortcomings, wearable technology can potentially change the way that caregivers provide service by connecting medical personnel and patients in real-time.

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1. American Nurses Association. Wearable Technology for Nurses. [Web Page]. June 2015. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2016.

2. Medical Device Events. The “So What” of Wearable Health. The 10x Medical Device Conference [Web Page]. May 2014. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2016.

3. D W. An Overview of the Application of Wearable Technology to Nursing Practice. US National Library of Medicine [Web Page]. July 25, 2016. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2016.

4. Forrester DA. Voice Communications Technology: Healthcare Provider Perceptions and Satisfaction. Amercan Nurse Today. February 2011;6(2).

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