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Understanding wearable technology; a patient’s perspective; app development; KT tape

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The Association of American Medical Colleges expects an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 primary and specialty care physicians by 2034. With significantly fewer doctors, rising health care costs and increasing patients with chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, utilizing technology to monitor and treat patients more efficiently and effectively has never been more urgent.

Wearables could be the solution. These smart electronic devices are worn close to the skin’s surface to detect, analyze and transmit information concerning body signals such as vital signs like your pulse, oxygen, blood pressure — which in some cases immediately alerts the person wearing the technology to take action when necessary.

Wearable devices are a new frontier for health care, providing continuous physiological 24-hour monitoring allowing doctors, nurses and other clinical staff to monitor patients whether they’re in the hospital or at home. With patients’ physiology remotely measured in real time, hospitals can free up beds, doctors can watch patients’ vitals regardless of location, and greater efficiency is gained.

The advances in wearable health tech are big business. The global wearable medical devices market is expected to grow from $8.35 billion in 2020 to $10.28 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate of 23.1%.

Guest: Dr. Charles Odonkor of Yale Medicine joined us to discuss a study he recently co-authored entitled The emerging clinical role of wearables: factors for successful implementation in healthcare.

A patient’s perspective

Almost 10% of Americans have an implanted medical device for a health issue. Most common are cardiac devices like pacemakers or stents, but brain implants have helped people with neurological conditions in recent years. From deep brain stimulation for tremors to management of epileptic seizures, implanted devices are hitting the market with even more in development.

Guest: Michael McKenna shares his personal experience with a responsive neurostimulation device for his seizures.

App development

For the 3.4 million people live with epilepsy in the United States, more than 100,000 of whom are Floridians. Medications can help control their seizures most of the time; however, many suffer unpleasant side effects from the drugs.

Even with medications, some people with epilepsy remain at risk of death, especially from a seizure that occurs at night that frightens both patients and their doctors. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are helping those with neurological conditions by collecting information about their seizures through their Apple Watches. In addition, they are developing an app that can detect, predict and even alert family members when someone has a seizure. Throughout their research, data is de-identified and encrypted to protect their subjects’ privacy.

Guest: Dr. Greg Krauss, a professor of neurology at John Hopkins School of Medicine, told us more about his research.

KT tape

Not all wearables involve a complex circuit board or advanced technology. Kinesiology tape — or KT tape — was developed in the 1970s by Kenzo Kase, a chiropractic doctor in Japan who wanted to create something that mimicked the elasticity of human skin instead of using stiff medical tape.

While professional athletes, physical therapists and trainers used it for decades, it only hit the mainstream during the 2008 Summer Olympics when volleyball player Kerri Walsh wore KT tape on her shoulder and subsequently won the gold medal. Now, kinesiology tape is ubiquitous in the athletic world.

Guest: Dr. Kevin MacPherson, a clinical lecturer and assistant director of clinical education at the University of Florida’s Department of Physical Therapy, explained KT tape’s uses and applications.

What’s Health Got to Do with It? Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.

Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.