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How Reliable are Wearable Medical Monitoring Devices?

Update Date: Sep 23, 2019 08:55 AM EDT
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How reliable are wearable medical monitoring devices?
(Photo : Photo by Tyler Hendy)

Due to the growing demand from consumers who want to take control of their health, wearable medical monitoring devices are becoming more and more popular throughout the world. There are various types of devices on the market which collect data about your health and fitness, but how reliable are they? Read on to find out.

Types of Wearable Medical Monitoring Devices

Many companies provide various types of wearable medical monitoring devices and health alert services. For instance, wearable medical alert systems offer emergency monitoring when you are in and out of your home. They keep track of your health and send an emergency signal to medical personnel when you require urgent care. Many send messages to caregivers and family members as well. 

LifeStation (review details here) has a range of services and products at affordable prices for older adults who want to stay in their homes. Similarly, Medical Guardian provides various easy to set up monitoring services, and they have a broad range of plan options too. Many companies solely manufacture wearable medical monitoring devices. Popular types of devices on the market include:

  • Smart Health Watches: These devices monitor your heart rhythms and give alerts if you experience atrial fibrillation. They also offer some of the features of fitness trackers and perform all the other regular tasks that you would expect from a smartphone, such as making calls and texting.
  • Wearable ECG Monitors: These wearable monitoring devices feature state-of-the-art technology to measure electrocardiograms and send the readings to your doctor. They detect atrial fibrillation as well. Furthermore, they are excellent fitness trackers. They can track pace, distance and even elevation.
  • Wearable Blood Pressure Monitors: These devices may look like a regular smartwatch, but they do a lot more. They measure your blood pressure and record your fitness levels from a variety of daily activities.

Some Devices Are More Reliable Than Others

So, how reliable are wearable medical monitoring devices? The answer is dependent on the specific device. Some smartwatches are better than others, but you can have the assurance that the best ones are indeed reliable. For instance, the Apple Watch 4 has received clearance from the United States Food and Drug Administration for three heart monitoring features: heart rhythm detection, low heart rate detection and a personal electrocardiogram monitor. That means the Apple Watch 4 has achieved status as a bona fide medical device for those capabilities. Some other smartwatches are also just as reliable.

How reliable are wearable blood monitoring devices?

When it comes to blood pressure monitoring, wearable medical monitoring devices are not so reliable. Plenty of wearable watches on the market claim they measure blood pressure, but getting an accurate recording of data is hard to achieve. Most medical smartwatches with blood monitoring capabilities monitor your heart rate by using optical sensors. These sensors estimate the changes in your blood pressure by examining the blood travelling through your veins. Although this can give an approximation of blood pressure, it cannot match the precision of an oscillometric machine that you would find at a hospital or a doctor's surgery. Currently, there is only one blood-monitoring device on the market that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and meets European health and safety laws. The Omron HeartGuide smartwatch includes a monitor embedded inside the cuff. It tightens and expands to take your blood pressure in the same way as an oscillometric machine does. That provides a direct measurement of your blood pressure rather than an estimation.

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