The Next Phase of Telemedicine: Wearables & Patient Navigation

Enhancing and improving the patient experience has long been one of the main goals of the healthcare industry and its providers. Today’s complex system of medical care is often confusing to the patient and compromises the continuity of care. This can happen if the appropriate resources aren’t matched to the patient in a timely manner. Or a medical provider doesn’t have up-to-date information on the patient’s vital records. 

But, the game is changing thanks to recent advances in technology and patient navigation services.  

What are wearables?  

What is a wearable? Well, chances are you have had one or have considered getting one in the last few years. But, you may be more familiar with their brand names than the industry terminology — smartwatches and fitness trackers.  

Apple Watch, Fitbit, Samsung Gear, Whoop Strap, Jawbone, and more are all wearables that give the consumer wide ranging health feedback. But wearables aren’t confined to just smart watches. They also include virtual and augmented reality, wearable ECG/heart monitors, wearable blood pressure monitors, smart jackets, rings, patches, lenses, bras, biosensors; they’re all currently in development or on the market.  

These devices, as futuristic as they sound, are helping healthcare professionals to provide better, uninterrupted care for their patients. In fact, use of wearable technology has tripled in the last four years and according to Insider Intelligence, more than 80% of consumers are willing to try it.  

What is patient navigation? 

In 1990, a Harlem doctor, Harold Freeman, conceived a program that would focus on a critical window of opportunity to save lives from cancer by eliminating barriers to timely care. Initially, the program focused on financial/access barriers, communication and information, and addressing fear and distrust of the system.  

In the beginning, the program targeted poor and immigrant communities with fragmented access to care. Now, patient navigation has grown. Now, it has expanded to include prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and more.  

Think of patient navigation like a concierge service that picks up where the provider leaves off. If you’re having trouble navigating next steps, finances, getting records, etc.  

Why this matters 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, more patients have chosen telehealth over traditional in-person healthcare. This was done as a way to reduce the potential for infection. Telemedicine has been a convenient way to diagnose and treat illness when a patient is unable to travel to and from.  

It’s a trend healthcare providers see continuing. When combined with the influx of data from wearables and efficient communication through patient navigators and their software, it can help patients manage conditions critical or chronic, without a break in care. 

Patients receive top-notch care. Because a patient navigation system is set up to handle patient questions, schedule follow ups, and transfer vital information, providers save time and resources.   

Next steps 

While there are a lot of pros to utilizing these burgeoning technologies, are there any cons? The short answer is potentially. Before you jump right into wearing a device that will transmit your vital details or employ a company to help you navigate the waterways of your healthcare journey, you should always do your homework.  

While wearables have the ability to change the landscape of patient care, there are issues such as patient privacy, system compatibility and transferability, and overall sustained operability to consider. It is always best to go with a company who can show a history of quality and adheres to best practices for patient safety and privacy.