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Wearable technology in health care: Getting better all the time

Smartwatches and wearable medical devices help people monitor their health 24/7. Their impact could increase if doctors trust their utility and people feel their data is secure

Advances in sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping millions detect and manage chronic health conditions and avoid serious illness on devices small enough to be worn on a wrist or penny-sized patch. Deloitte Global predicts that 320 million consumer health and wellness wearable devices will ship worldwide in 2022 (figure 1). By 2024, that figure will likely reach nearly 440 million units as new offerings hit the market and more health care providers become comfortable with using them. These numbers include both smartwatches, which are marketed to and purchased by consumers, and medical-grade wearables—typically called “smart patches”—which are often prescribed by health care professionals but are increasingly becoming available off the shelf.

Smartwatches and smart patches are getting smarter about health—and more widely used

While health care companies produce a range of devices that help patients monitor health markers intermittently—including blood pressure cuffs and ECG monitors—our analysis focuses on smartwatches and smart patches, which are seeing rapid consumer adoption.

Deloitte’s 2021 Connectivity and Mobile Trends survey found that 39% of respondents owned a smartwatch.1 Their most common uses have historically been to help people get fit, lose weight, and beat their personal best in their next race (figure 2). But increasingly, people are using smartwatches to monitor their health, not just their running pace, as new hardware, software, and apps have turned them into personalized health clinics. Heart rate monitors are now standard on most smartwatches, and some have FDA approval for detecting abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation, a major cause of stroke. As these devices get more sophisticated, the percentage of consumers using them to manage chronic conditions and detect symptoms of serious diseases will likely increase.


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