Sensing Sickness

5 Wearable Devices That Go Beyond Basic Fitness Tracking To Help You Stay Healthy

Thanks to the Internet of things (IoT) and the collection of data via sensors, you can now have access to wearables that go beyond basic fitness tracking by monitoring factors that may indicate you are getting sick.

A recent study led by Stanford University professor and geneticist Michael Snyder, PhD,  linked the predictability of illness with data collected from wearable biosensors. The study monitored factors such as sleep patterns, skin temperature, heart rates, and blood oxygen levels of 60 participants over two years. By comparing the results of about 2 billion measurements against normal readings, researchers were able to detect abnormal readings, which could hint to potential sickness. It is this sort of promising research that Dr. Laura Jana, Director of Innovation at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health considers to be at the leading edge of health technology innovation. “New health technologies such as wearable biosensors seem to be increasingly delivering on the promise to not only improve our detailed understanding of illness, but providing valuable, data-driven insights that allow for ever-more accurately prediction and prevention of it.”

Being able to identify factors that can lead to illness plays an important role in assessing the onset of major medical conditions, such as Lyme disease or sleep apnea., and more clinically relevant with FDA approved medical device rating. Here are five of the best devices that are accessible to consumers and collect clinical grade biometric data  that can help predict illness, based on my research.

1. SleepImage
SleepImage is intended to assess sleep complaints (such as sleep deprivation) and sleep dysfunctions such as insomnia and apnea. Its Sleep Data Recorder Kit, includes a wrist-watch-like  “actimetry” sensor that measures your movements while sleeping, and wearable devices that track your breathing volume, your heart rhythm (ECG), and even your snoring (by measuring tissue vibration).

The SleepImage system records and uploads electrocardiogram (ECG), actigraphy, snoring, and body position data to a secure cloud-based website, where it is automatically analyzed. It then generates sleep quality reports that feature easy-to-read images and summary tables.

It uses a “cardiopulmonary coupling” (CPC) algorithm to determine the synchronization between modulations of heart rate variability and respiration, linking your breathing and heart rhythms to various sleep stages and disruptions in your sleep.

The technology was validated in an interventional study and clinical trial published in 2013. While a prescription is needed for this FDA-approved device, it offers patients a cheaper option for assessing sleep disorders than a complex polysomnogram system.

2. OURA Ring
With no prescription required and a stunningly sleek design, the OURA ring is a medical wearable with mass appeal. Self-described as a “revolutionary ring-sized wellness computer that helps you sleep better and perform better,” the OURA carefully measures the pulse waveform and timing of heartbeats and then extrapolates a variety of health metrics. Information about heart rate, respiration rate, movement, and body temperature is fed through a convenient mobile app, alongside actionable recommendations.

Elevated heart rate and body temperature? Expect a notice suggesting you take things easy today–you might be getting sick. Restless night? Plan on a lower “readiness” score for the day–a measure that factors sleep alongside your activity/rest balance, temperature, and resting heart rate to estimate how prepared your body is to take on the world.

Made from scratch-resistant, water-proof ceramic, the OURA ring is a decidedly elegant, consumer-friendly, medical sensor that has already been on the market long enough to garner some serious fans.

3. Kardia Mobile
If you’re interested in cardiovascular health, the Kardia Mobile from AliveCor will put a wealth of information at your fingertips–literally! Currently available as a thin strip that can be attached discretely to the back of a cell phone or held in your hand–and soon to be released as a sensor-enabled watch–the Kardia Mobile technology captures a medical-grade EKG in only thirty seconds. A voice memo feature allows you to easily track symptoms that coincide with cardiovascular events (such as shortness of breath and palpitations) and convenient EKG tracking and sharing tools make it easy to communicate concerns with your physician, making it a powerful tool in treating and preventing potentially serious cardiovascular events.

The low price of $99 and 1 year warranty all contribute to the appeal of this FDA-cleared wearable. When you think about the fact that 90% of the 795,000 strokes a year that can be prevented with early warning, knowing your EKG is critical.

4. HealBe GoBe
Anyone who has ever been frustrated scrolling through calorie lists or fiddling with barcode readers on a health-tracking app will be fall head-over-heels for the HealBe GoBe. Worn around the wrist, the HealBe GoBe is designed to automatically track multiple health parameters to help keep your body functioning at peak performance.   While many of its features are similar to those found on other medical wearables (heart rate, blood pressure, sleep, etc.), what sets the GoBe apart is its focus on how food is affecting your health.

The GoBe uses an impedance sensor on the surface of the skin to measure fluid moving in and out of your cells, which relates directly to the amount of glucose present. Because fat and protein in food affects the rate glucose is absorbed, different foods result in differently shaped “glucose curves,” allowing the GoBe to analyze what you’ve eaten without requiring you to log anything item-by-item.

Because the GoBe also tracks hydration and activity levels, it can help you see if your diet and your lifestyle are an appropriate match and encourage you to achieve a balance more likely to prevent disease and increase health overall.

5. Muse
The connection between mental health and physical health has been well-documented. But it’s hard to improve what you can’t track. That’s where the Muse comes in handy. Billed as “the brain sensing headband,” the Muse uses seven carefully calibrated sensors to measure brain signals similar to how other trackers measure heart rate. Essentially a compact electroencephalography (EEG) system, the Muse brings the same technology used in research labs into the hands of consumers.  Not only can the Muse help identify periods of stress, built-in scoring, graphing, and attention-based training options can help you actually identify stress causes and improve your response over time.

Although no device can compensate for the expertise of a doctor, being able to track your own biometrics 24 hours a day is an empowering step towards becoming the CEO of your own body and can help you make changes and choices that ultimately lead to a healthier you.

What’s Next
Offering a complete set of FDA-regulated, highly researched monitoring features is critical to providing both patients and medical staff with important information to not only identify symptoms but to prevent diseases as well. As technology continuously changes, so will the different options for wearables that use biosensors for recording vitals. These devices will be instrumental in gathering accurate data that can explain abnormal conditions which may cause illness. Given the importance of these devices in preventing disease, it will be increasingly important to keep abreast of the available options of biomedical wearables on the market.

© Robin Farmanfarmaian  All rights reserved.


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