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Ways Tech is Advancing Personal Wellness
Technology has become a central part of our everyday contemporary lives. For the most part, this has been to positive effect. The internet has opened up the world, connecting us to valuable cultural exchanges. Smartphones and the devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) are helping to make our actions more efficient. However, one of the primary ways technology is having a good impact is in advancing personal wellness.
Digital tools in healthcare settings — whether at home or in facilities — are a growing presence. This connected technology is empowering us all to take control of our wellness through convenient interactions with doctors, agile access to treatment plans, and collaborating with professionals through patient monitoring. Mobile devices are becoming more adept at tracking our vital signs, while developers are continuing to produce applications that capture important data and motivate us to change.
We’re going to take a closer look at a few of the key ways tech is advancing personal wellness.
For almost any activity, there is an application to enhance it. The same is becoming true in healthcare fields. Developers are working with medical professionals and wellness experts to find new wellness focuses for mobile software. These turn our devices into important tools for monitoring and sharing data about aspects of our health.
Wellness apps come in a variety of forms. Some of them are designed to prompt behavior; pill reminder software that enables safe tracking of medication, glucose monitoring for those living with diabetes, and diet diaries. There are also several emerging mental health apps to help users keep track of their moods, share information with mental health professionals, and access resources like guided meditation. Personal fitness apps are among the most popular, and there is evidence for how effective these are as health tools. One recent study found that 82% of those polled reported using healthcare apps helped achieve their wellness goals.
While the evidence points to their efficacy, it’s also important to understand that apps aren’t enough on their own. Without a mindful approach to their use, they just collect, store, and distribute data. This needs to be paired with the right equipment and motivation to be impactful. While there are plenty of apps to help track the quality of sleep, these must be followed up with the right actions and equipment to help manage the underlying causes of problems like snoring — whether this is sleep apnea or constricted airflow. Weight tracking software is great, but it must also incorporate motivational messaging to make meaningful and long-lasting changes.
The last couple of decades have seen the development of wearable technology expand significantly. For most people, the most familiar form this has taken is fitness trackers. What began as simple integration of pedometers into watches has grown into a tool providing insights into respiratory functions, sleep patterns, and blood oxygen levels. The rising popularity of wearable tech is in line with the current trends in fitness, which revolve around ways to utilize digital tech to have a holistic effect on wellness. That fitness wearables are also reliable stress monitors is reflective of the idea that mental and physical wellness are dependent on and beneficial to one another.
The growing accessibility of wearables is also impacting medical fields. The lower cost and greater functionality of devices mean these are increasingly being used to minimize the time patients have to spend in facilities for tests or following treatment. Wearable blood pressure and ECG monitors can be fitted like watches with the results transmitted to medical professionals in real-time. Biosensors in the form of self-adhesive patches have recently been adopted to monitor changes in vital signs remotely so patients inside facilities are not constrained by machines and can get exercise or move around freely. One of these, trialed during COVID-19, was found to be a vital tool in limiting staff contact with patients while also detecting early signs of patient condition deterioration.
The use of wearables is seeing a lot of exploration. This is particularly evident in how it can help people improve their mental and neurological wellbeing. Smartwatches, when combined with apps, are proving to be reliable tools in monitoring mental health. Elements that trackers can detect with a certain amount of accuracy — blood pressure, heart rate, sleep quality — when combined with an app can be an early warning system regarding anxiety, stress, and in some circumstances depression.
One of the most promising technological advancements to personal wellness is the rise of telehealth. This sees patients being able to attend medical appointments and examinations remotely via a secure platform. This has previously seen slow adoption, but the COVID-19 pandemic’s need to maintain safe distances resulted in a dramatic rise. One study found 43.5% of medicare appointments in April 2020 were via telemedicine as opposed to 0.1% in February of that year. Now the public has noted the convenience and safety of this approach, it is expected to become a more common part of our wellness landscape.
This is reflected in the widening applications for its use. It is not just general doctor’s appointments patients can now access remotely. Some specialist appointments — such as optometry, urology, and chronic disease management — can now be performed via telehealth. Mental healthcare and addiction recovery are also growing uses for telehealth; patients can attend their therapies in the comfort of their own home surroundings.
There is also an increasing number of tests being incorporated into telehealth practice. Data can be captured on mobile apps and smart devices and shared via the secure telehealth platform. Clinicians are developing protocols whereby they are better able to assess patients via video and even develop a “screen-side” manner.
One of the most important uses of our digital landscape is its ability to positively impact personal wellness. There are a growing number of tools that can be adapted for medical use or are designed specifically to make wellness activities more effective. However, it’s just as important to remember that these tools alone aren’t a panacea; it’s also how we use them to alter our behaviour and interact meaningfully with professionals that matters.