Jan 07 2020

The Smartwatch: Where Will It Go in 2020?

The wearable device is making significant strides in healthcare and is poised for further growth.

If there’s one thing the last decade has taught us, it’s that technology is everywhere, influencing every aspect of our lives. More specifically, it’s having an ever-growing impact on the healthcare industry and the delivery of care.

Mobile devices such as tablets are being used as distraction mechanisms and to improve patient experiences. Smart home technology is helping seniors with disabilities to control their lights, thermostats and locks. Even drones are being tested to increase a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. 

These tech trends are likely to continue gaining steam in 2020 and throughout the new decade. However, one trend in particular stands out: the growing adoption of smartwatches for clinical use.

A recent report from Research and Markets predicts sales of global wearable devices will exceed $60 billion by 2025, with the smartwatch segment expected to see the highest level of growth and command the market’s largest share.

Today’s smartwatches are already helping patients in countless ways, from reducing in-person medical visits to lowering healthcare costs.

Here’s what to watch for as smartwatch technology continues to evolve this year.

DISCOVER: Five healthcare tech trends to watch in 2020.

More Individuals Will Use Smartwatches for AFib Detection

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular heart rhythm that can often lead to complications such as blood clots, heart failure and stroke.

The underlying problem, however, is that roughly 30 percent of individuals with AFib go undiagnosed until one of these life-threatening issues take place, making the need for early detection straightforward and necessary.

Apple is one company that’s focused on early detection of the heart condition. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine recently shared that the Apple Watch, which uses an optical sensor to analyze the wearer’s heart rate, has the capacity to accurately identify irregular heart rhythms that further testing confirmed to be AFib. A separate study submitted to the Food and Drug Administration further affirms that the device reliably detects the condition 99 percent of the time.

Samsung has taken a similar approach to Apple with the recent release of its Galaxy Watch Active2. In working to prevent the adverse effects of AFib, the company developed a device that will soon allow wearers to detect the heart condition through its electrocardiogram. Although the smartwatch is currently awaiting FDA clearance for EKG use, SamMobile reports the capability is slated for a February rollout.

LEARN MORE: Find out how Ochsner Health uses the Apple Watch to keep patients healthy.

Heart Health Monitoring Won't Stop with EKGs

The shift by smartwatch makers away from fitness toward managing health conditions isn’t solely tied to AFib detection, although heart health is often the major area of focus. One beneficial clinical feature that’s just beginning to emerge is blood pressure monitoring.

At the end of 2019, Omron Healthcare announced the release of their new HeartGuide, a smartwatch that is considered to be the first clinically validated, wearable blood pressure monitor. The watch works much like traditional blood pressure cuffs — it relies on its own inflatable cuff positioned within the watch’s band to take accurate blood pressure readings. 

Wearers of this watch can easily track and manage their blood pressure via an app on their smartphone. The device shows particular promise for individuals with high blood pressure, as they can share the data with their doctor to make sure measurements don’t fall outside of a healthy range.

Samsung and AT&T are also exploring ways to monitor blood pressure remotely. While Samsung has generally relied upon the sensors in its Galaxy Watch Active to do so, AT&T has teamed up with OneLife Technologies to launch the OnePulse smartwatch.

Although the device doesn’t take blood pressure measurements on its own, it can be paired via Bluetooth with other connected medical devices, such as blood pressure cuffs and glucometers, to collect accurate patient readings. 

As 2020 progresses, expect more smartwatch manufacturers to build and expand upon these types of capabilities as they attempt to further bridge the gap into the medical space.

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