The wearable market has experienced a growth rate of more than 20 percent and is estimated to reach over 213 million units shipped worldwide by 2020, according to IDC. These numbers likely don’t come as a surprise, as wearables have become an everyday tech accessory for nearly every generation — children, Millennials, Gen X, and even seniors. In fact, research by Accenture found that 17 percent of Americans over the age of 65 use wearables to track fitness — a percentage right on track with the 20 percent of those under the age of 65 that use wearables similarly.
But, while the value of utilizing wearables to track health has been tapped for the everyday consumer, it has yet to reach its full potential. Wearables can go far beyond heart rate monitoring and counting steps — especially for seniors. These devices, when connected with a data analytics platform, can provide the valuable insights needed to not only track health in real time, but predict potential threats and optimize care according to need. And the analytic insights, integrated with previous health records, not only benefit the senior, but give professional and family caregivers a deeper look into the behavior that can improve long term health, streamlining delivery of care by mitigating the need for trial-and-error treatment planning.
With over 50 million seniors in the U.S., this offers a huge opportunity for care facilities to provide real value to the patients they serve, whether in a senior care facility where residents are monitored on an hourly basis, or still living independently where facilities provide data insights at scheduled check-ins. But, as more facilities adopt wearable and analytic solutions, they must acknowledge the importance of using the wearable-enabled analytics platform to keep users engaged by providing value through actionable insights, rather than simply mining data and pushing it out. If there are not real benefits for both the senior and care provider, that wearable device is likely to end up in a drawer in a matter of months.
As caregivers dive into these valuable insights, they can be applied to assist with everything from chronic disease management and health event recovery to reduce the chance of post-acute readmission, to predicting potential threats based on irregularities in activity levels and vitals — allowing providers to truly delivery value-based care. For example, through the analysis of activity data, caregivers can follow the pathway to a potential fall for a senior, and proactively take steps to avoid this often traumatic event. Additionally, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a large risk for seniors, and often occur after a 72-hour period where light activity such as walking becomes increasingly painful and trips to the restroom increase. By tracking a senior’s activity levels through a wearable device, caregivers can strategically treat those with potential UTI issues.
Through these kind of applications, truly actionable wearable data can provide immense value for both seniors and the caregivers tasked with keeping them on the pathway to a positive aging experience. And for those still living independently, the integration of response systems — such as push-of-a-button 911 dialing — within the wearable devices can provide additional value in their daily life by providing peace of mind to the senior and their loved ones, and functionality in the case of an emergency.
The use of wearables in everyday life doesn’t have to be limited to tracking a morning walk or getting reminders to stand up when you’ve been sitting for too long. If used alongside a powerful analytics platform, these devices can truly improve seniors’ quality of life, while strengthening connections with caregivers through increased visibility into seniors’ daily activities and peace of mind for loved ones. And while the wearable revolution is sweeping the nation, it truly should be about more than wearables for seniors. Wearables, backed by powerful data analytics, can become invaluable for our aging generation while providing unmatched insights for both personal and professional caregivers.