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How do 'healthy-tech' tools fit into our future?

By Dave Werle, CFP®, CSRIC™

Smiling fit looking older guy exercising outside

Current health care management tech tools are growing in use and benefits. At home diagnostics tools are being used widely to assist with telehealth services.

It’s been twelve years since the original Fitbit tracker came on the market. Since then, an impressive array of devices and applications has become available - and omnipresent. Can these products demonstrate actual health benefits?

Which ones might be especially helpful for those of us who hope to “age in place” when our health inevitably declines? Lastly, what futuristic health-related products are coming closer to reality? Healthy tech products fall into two categories: products that serve the needs of people who want to live a healthy lifestyle and those that are trying to manage existing health issues.

In the healthy lifestyle category, the many tools already available include wearable devices that have become prevalent in today’s world. The Apple Watch has reached a fifth generation and now has some quite remarkable features.

Current health care management tech tools are growing in use and benefits. At home diagnostics tools are being used widely to assist with telehealth services.

You can get an echocardiogram (ECG) on yourself in 30 seconds and also monitor arrhythmia using the watch. It provides a warning if you are in a dangerously noisy setting, so you can put on some hearing protection. If you are working on stress management, the Apple Watch has a “breathe” app to help with meditative breathing.

Fitbit has been around for more than ten years now and claims to have more than 25 million users. One avid user I know is my mom. Her Fitbit gives her regular reminders to get moving. She has a steps-taken goal for each day and sticks to it compulsively.

When I’m visiting, my attempts to take out the recycling or trash are regularly rejected as she wants to get in her steps! The second function she uses is the sleep stage analyzer. The Fitbit detects changes in heartbeat and movement to estimate when you are in light, deep and REM sleep stages.

Knowing which nights you don’t get enough deep sleep might help you figure out which pre-sleep habits work (such as ending screen time earlier) and which don’t (like eating a pint of double chocolate ice cream at midnight).

There are other healthy tech apps that focus entirely on sleep habits. Smart sleep alarms, such as Sleep Cycle and Sleep as Android target the way in which you wake up to improve your health. These smart alarms attempt to wake you only during light sleep, within a time frame you select.

This is based on the theory that waking during light sleep helps you feel more refreshed and energetic during the day. Who wouldn’t want that? Quality of sleep is known to impact overall health outcomes helping these tools gain popularity.

Another tool designed to maintain health is the Firefly. This gadget straps to your knee and sends electric impulses to stimulate a nerve in your leg that, in turn, increases blood flow in your lower leg. Athletes use Firefly to help with quicker recovery after a workout. It also can work for people who are going on a long airplane flight and want to maintain good blood flow in the legs.

Current health care management tech tools are growing in use and benefits. At home diagnostics tools are being used widely to assist with telehealth services. TytoHome is a device that allows you to perform a basic health exam at home and submit the information to your doctor.

This can help the doctor to diagnose an acute illness remotely and is used for follow up at home after a medical procedure. For people who want to age-in-place and might have difficulty getting to their doctors’ offices, this could save quite a bit of time and money and improve health outcomes.

Biometric devices are now being used to track a range of chronic conditions. Data from pacemakers can now be sent wirelessly from home to health care providers to help monitor functioning.

Blood glucose levels can be monitored with a sensor and smart phone app using a device called Sugar IQ. A user can wave their smartphone over the wearable sensor and get a reading on glucose levels throughout the day. This type of tool can make it much easier to manage diabetes from home.

Prescription management tools are also going high tech. Automatic pills dispensers (such as Hero) will notify and dispense the correct medications on a schedule and remain locked for safety at other times.

They can also provide a notification to a loved one or caregiver if a dosage is missed.

What might the future look like with health technology? Virtual reality rehab is on the rise. One company, Neuro Rehab VR, provides physical and occupational therapy using virtual reality devices.

Imagine how much more engaging rehab exercises would be if you were seeing yourself hiking through the mountains, rather than plodding on a treadmill.

Microrobot technology is another field that is being developed to provide health benefits. Microrobots could potentially be used to deliver drugs to specific spots inside your body while being controlled from outside the body. They also could, in the future, be used to perform less invasive surgical procedures.

Greater use of technology is not always a good thing, but in health and wellness, there are a growing number of products that can help us get and stay healthy in more efficient and cost- effective ways.

Dave Werle, CFP®, CSRIC™ is a Financial Planner at Starks Financial Group, Inc. 440 Montford Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801. He can be reached at 828-285-8777

Starks Financial Group is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Any opinions are those of Dave Werle and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website’s users and/or members.


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