Wearables have become another weapon to track, monitor, and fight the progression of COVID-19 and its symptoms worldwide. New deployments and studies during the pandemic will boost the healthcare wearables market (which includes connected blood pressure monitors, continuous glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, and electrocardiogram monitors) to 30 million shipments in 2020, increasing to 104 million shipments in 2025, at a CAGR of 28.5%, states global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.
“Wearables have often been used in medical trials and to aid healthcare professionals to monitor the vitals of many patients simultaneously, both in and out of the hospital, with a focus on specific healthcare issues and the onset of COVID-19 is no exception,” says Stephanie Tomsett, Wearables Analyst at ABI Research.
Several wearable, platform, and healthcare companies are working together on different projects that use healthcare wearable devices, smartwatches, or activity trackers to aid with tracking the progress of the virus or monitoring the vital statistics of potential sufferers.
“The wearable trials and deployments that record vitals and monitor symptoms alert medical professionals if a patient’s condition worsens. This becomes particularly important when the number of hospital beds is limited and so many patients are being sent home, ensuring that the seriously ill are cared for in a hospital while the less ill are still monitored when at home,” Tomsett explains.
With COVID-19, these wearables also help to reduce the amount of unnecessary contact between the seriously ill and medical staff, who are at serious risk of exposure to the virus while also potentially transmitting it to other vulnerable patients.
“There are some exciting wearable deployments in place which are helping to track and monitor the spread of COVID-19,” Tomsett points out. For example, Masimo SafetyNet is a wearable wristband device with a disposable fingertip attachment that monitors a patient’s pulse, breathing rate, and blood oxygen levels, both in and out of a hospital setting.
Scripps Research Translational Institute has in the past tested 200,000 Fitbit wearables over 60 days to determine if they are effective in tracking flu outbreaks, and is now attempting to do the same with wearables in the United States that measure resting heart rate (such as those from Apple, Fitbit, Garmin, and others that share data with Google Fit or Apple HealthKit) to track COVID-19. And, Estimote has developed a workplace safety pebble-like wearable that can be clipped on a lanyard or on the wrist for those that must be at a physical workplace when social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
While there are an increasing number of vital trials, studies, and deployments of wearables aiding the fight against COVID-19, more can always be done.
“More wearable and healthcare companies need to look into how a variety of different wearable devices can help either by tracking the spread of the virus in different regions to provide information on locations affected, or by remotely monitoring patients to reduce the amount of interaction between them and healthcare professionals. Not only will this help with the immediate issues with COVID-19 but will also help with any future healthcare related outbreaks and mitigate recurrence of the pandemic in second and even third waves,” Tomsett concludes.