How wearable devices can help provide life-saving patient data

Author: Satta Sarmah Hightower

Emergency responders, like emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, are dedicated to saving lives. They do a difficult, high-pressure job every day, and they rely on training, experience, and technology to support them in emergency situations.  Wearable technologies in healthcare, in particular, can help first responders access the patient data they need to make near real-time decisions that potentially saves lives.

What is wearable technology in healthcare?

Wearables are sensor-based FDA-regulated devices that an individual wears to collect and measure various health data, including heart rate, vital signs and cholesterol levels. With the wearer's consent, the data the wearable collects can be securely transferred to health care IT systems, such as electronic medical records (EMR) systems, emergency response software platforms or other HIPAA-compliant technologies, so paramedics can have more insight into a patient's health history as they transport them to the hospital.

In some cases, a wearable device can work in the reverse way. It can trigger alerts that let the user or nearby individuals know that they need to contact emergency services when the user is in distress. For example, a smartwatch or wearable medical alert device might feature automatic fall detection capabilities or a panic button that is triggered based on an individual’s vital signs. Once the alert goes off, the data is automatically sent to 911, which can then dispatch EMS to the scene. Wearables also can be useful for proactively alerting an individual, their family member or caregiver when they should seek medical attention. Devices like these include heart rate, blood pressure or oxygen monitors that trigger alerts when an individual's readings are dangerously low.

Wearables can transmit the right patient data at the right time, empowering first responders with information that helps them provide even better care in emergency situations. Some insurance providers may even cover the cost of healthcare wearables or provide rewards programs associated with well-being and fitness.

Network connectivity and wearable technology in healthcare

Strong network connectivity is crucial for wearables to function optimally. Wearable technologies must share patient data between devices and systems and give clinicians, EMS and paramedics access to real-time information to make emergency decisions. Emergency responders deal with life and death decisions every day, and getting the information they need in a timely fashion can affect patient outcomes.

This is especially critical in an emergency situation when a first responder needs to be automatically alerted when there's a change in a patient's condition or when timely access to a patient's health history could help them decide what medical interventions would be most appropriate.

The future of wearable technology in healthcare

Wearables offer so many promising possibilities for changing how first responders deliver emergency care. Access to accurate information can help paramedics better assess a patient's condition when they arrive on scene and make more informed decisions about the type of aid to render or medication to administer.

Emergency responders work under intense pressure, day in and day out, and use every tool at their disposal to save lives. We often think of these tools in terms of medical equipment, but technologies like wearable devices also can help emergency responders do their jobs more effectively. And when they do, the end result could be a life saved. 

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The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.