How to Design for Better Patient Control with Wearable Technology
Providing systems and wearable technology that increase patients' level of control over their comfort and care makes for happier, less-stressed patients.
It’s no secret that many healthcare environments are intimidating and disorienting, and patients often feel powerless, so designers are exploring ways to give patients more control over their environments, not unlike a hotel guest room. A considerable number of studies have documented that when patients have options or choices, it reduces stress and enables them to feel more in control (Winkel and Holahan 1986; Evans and Cohen 1987; Steptoe and Appels 1989). A healing environment will offer as many choices and options to patients as possible in every setting, whether it is an outpatient waiting room or a critical care unit.
It is likely that we will start to see mobile app-based interfaces and tablets allowing patients to control elements as basic as room temperature, in-room dining, entertainment options, treatment sessions, and so on. That on-demand flexibility is essential, and it’s no coincidence that these choices are starting to sound a lot like a hotel.
Technology is not only getting more powerful, it’s getting smaller. And more portable — to the point where patients can strap devices onto their wrists and still maintain a connection with their caregivers as well as the facility. The technology goes well beyond smart watches and fitness trackers and includes devices that provide information on vitals, behaviors, and dosing. The impact this will have on the physical space remains to be seen, but it doesn’t take much to imagine what happens to the design of a facility if monitoring devices can be worn by patients.
Wearable ECG monitors are on the cutting edge of consumer electronics, and what sets these monitors apart from smartwatches is their ability to measure an electrocardiogram and send the reading to the wearer’s physician as well as detect atrial fibrillation. It's also able to track pace, distance, and elevation, as well as automatic tracking for walking, running, swimming, and biking.
Biosensors are also emerging wearable medical devices that differ radically from wrist trackers and smartwatches. The Philips' wearable biosensor is a self-adhesive patch that allows patients to move around while collecting data on their movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. Research from Augusta University Medical Center shows that use of this wearable device led to an 89 percent reduction in patient deterioration into preventable cardiac or respiratory arrest. This demonstrates the ability wearables have to improve patient outcomes and possibly reduce staff workload.