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The How and Why of Wearable Tech in Healthcare

As wearables and sensors continue to grow in the healthcare space, medical device companies need to ensure their internal and external digital strategies are completely optimized. This includes everything from engaging patients in their healthcare, connecting patients and providers, and optimizing your automated marketing strategy.

Fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, and smartwatches with fitness apps have grown steadily in popularity since their debut in the 1960s. Yet in the last several years, their growth has been exponential. Smartwatch shipments alone grew 20% annually from 2019-20201 and the demand is higher than ever. Here’s what you need to know about wearables, including how the tech benefits patients and providers and why you should integrate it into your Salesforce Health Cloud instance.

In this article, we'll discuss:

Why wearable devices are beneficial to consumers
How wearable devices help providers deliver better care
How wearable devices work with Salesforce

Why wearables?

Pedometers or “step counters” were some of the first wearables, but the world has expanded beyond that. Now wearable tech is used not just in fitness, but disease prevention and compliance. Let’s take a closer look at three key ways how wearable devices are used in healthcare:

1. Patient monitoring and preventive detection

Kate is a 35-year-old woman who maintains good health through whole foods and regular exercise. She uses a smartwatch that tracks her fitness. One afternoon, she goes for a run and feels great. A few hours later, she feels extremely lightheaded. She checks her smartwatch and sees her pulse is much higher than it should be. After consulting with her spouse, she goes to the hospital where she has an EKG.

The EKG is arguably the most accurate way to measure one’s pulse, but it’s only for a snapshot in time. But because Kate wears a smartwatch regularly, her care team can access this data with her permission and see a longer view of her changing pulse. While not as precise as an EKG, this information gained from her wearable health tech can help offer insights into what caused her to feel lightheaded and when.

Kate is discharged, but her provider sends her home with another wearable healthcare device: a heart monitor that she’ll wear for several days in order to gather a greater amount of precise data. This will allow her team to respond fast if there are sudden changes, and the insights gained will help her care team offer future care more immediately.

2. Treatment compliance

Wearable health tech can also help doctors ensure patients are complying with prescribed treatment programs. Push notifications can alert patients to specific tasks, such as taking medications at a certain time. This enables a digital “conversation” between patients and providers. For example, once the patient has marked the task “complete,” providers can assume the patient took the medication. If the task is ignored more times than appropriate, providers can note this as well, and reach out to discuss any potential issues that are affecting the lack of compliance.

3. Insurance pricing and premiums

As the cost of healthcare slowly rises, patients and providers look for ways to maximize their healthcare spend. Insurance payers, noting a correlation between increased engagement and better outcomes, have sought ways to incentivize patients to take a more proactive role in their health. Many insurance payers now provide discount pricing for members who wear a smartwatch or healthcare device and log activities. There are a variety of related apps that facilitate this compliance through challenges and gamification, such as drinking a certain amount of water each day and moving one’s body for a number of minutes.

Not only does this engagement help patients, the data collected also helps insurers personalize the healthcare experience for users. Using artificial intelligence (AI), the data can be used to generate predictive analytics about behaviors and health issues.

Wearable tech and Salesforce wear

Salesforce understands the power and impact of wearable tech; that’s why they developed Salesforce Wear, a collection of open-source apps used to design and build wearable apps for both Apple and Android products. The apps connect to the Salesforce platform, so developers can build on existing mobile apps as well.

How do they work?

The design is complex, but the communication is straightforward: essentially connecting Salesforce, the user’s phone, and the user’s smartwatch. When action is needed, Salesforce will send a push notification to the appropriate service, which in turn will push a notification to all the products where the app is installed (e.g., the user’s phone). The phone will then send a push notification to the user’s smartwatch.

This interaction can also go in the reverse direction. For example, if the person works out while wearing his smartwatch, data such as heart rate will be sent to the smartphone, which sends a notification to a server where the information will be securely stored.

Wearable Technology and Salesforce

Same tech, different uses

Let’s look at two examples of Salesforce wear that can help users reach two different goals. In our first example, we have Phil, a 47-year-old man who controls his diabetes through diet and exercise. As part of his commitment to health, Phil wears a glucose monitor on his wrist.

In addition to tracking steps taken and calories burned, Phil’s device also tracks his glucose levels to help prevent hyper and hypoglycemic episodes. If the device detects that Phil’s blood sugar has dropped below a certain level, it will send him a discreet push notification alerting him. As a result, Phil can take action immediately and maintain a high level of health.

Wearable tech can also help Salesforce users in their daily work. For our second example, we have Sam, a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company. Sam met with a lead that requires follow-up. In the Salesforce mobile app, Sam checks a custom property: Marketing Follow-up. This triggers a notification to the Marketing team that indicates the lead should be moved into a nurture email automation campaign.

With a couple clicks, the lead is given the attention they deserve, in real-time, and they moves through the sales cycle and closer to becoming a valued customer.

Penrod’s final take

From smartwatches and fitness trackers to blood pressure and heart monitors, wearable technology in healthcare is here to stay. This tech offers so many benefits, including helping providers and patients stay more connected, lowering healthcare costs, and helping marketers reach customers more effectively. The next step? Making sure it’s an integrated part of your Salesforce CRM.

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1https://www.strategyanalytics.com/strategy-analytics/blogs/wearables/2020/05/07/global-smartwatch-shipments-grow-20-percent-to-14-million-in-q1-2020