How wearables are transforming clinical trials

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George clinical discusses how wearables are enhancing clinical trials, with one smart watch app tripling enrollment rates for a research project. 

It is estimated that in the next three years there will be more than $173 billion wearables in use by 2020. As the technology behind them improves, more uses for them are being implemented.

Most people aren’t aware that wearables are not just for everyday technological uses, but in fact have a place in real medical advancements.

They are used in clinical trials to make studies more accurate for researchers and easier for participants.

Wearables data

What are wearables?

Wearables actually should be clarified as “wearable technology” but the popular term has been shortened to just wearables. According to Wikipedia “Wearable technology, wearables, fashionable technology, wearable devices, tech togs, or fashion electronics are smart electronic devices (electronic device with micro-controllers) that can be worn on the body as implants or accessories.”

One of the top current uses for wearables is for fitness monitoring devices. They help make individuals more aware of their health parameters and prompt users to stay more active, eat healthier, drink more water and take medications on time.

It has been shown that the reminders from wearables do help keep users in better health.



Here is MediaPost’s breakdown of numbers of devices projected to be sold in four years for wearables by category:

  • 206 million – Bluetooth headset
  • 81 million – Smartwatch
  • 67 million – Head-mounted display
  • 64 million – Wristband
  • 59 million – Other fitness monitor
  • 22 million – Sports watch
  • 6 million – Body-worn camera

As the next generation grows up with wearables, their usage will become more common place.  

The market for wearables will only continue to improve technologically and become more accessible as the entire Internet of Things (IoT) industry blossoms over the next several years.

These benefits and improvements in technology have carried over into the field of clinical research.

Benefits in clinical research trials

Wearables in clinical trials simplify the process for participants, researchers and reduces costs for CROs and pharmaceutical companies.

People can participate in clinical trials simply by wearing a wristband or smart watch that collects data while they go about their everyday lives.

These types of new wearables don’t require in-clinic monitoring and less visits as participants are able to transmit the data remotely.

In addition to helping collect data for clinical trials, wearables help cut costs since participants have less visits and less overnight stays.

The technology behind the wearables also helps with calculations which previously would have been done manually by the researchers with room for error and higher costs.


The Research Kit from Apple Watch

Apple has always been a technology trailblazer, and the wearable industry is no exception. Back in 2015 when the Apple Watch came out, along with it, they launched an application called The Research Kit.

The application allows users to download different clinical apps that are loaded in from different research projects that are ongoing. 

The data collected is anonymously used for the trials. Millions of users can learn about clinical trials and opt in to participate through the data that is already collected through their 

John Wilbanks’ the developer of a Parkinson’s App for The Research Kit called mPower  tweeted “After six hours, we had 7,406 people enrolled in our Parkinson’s study. Largest one ever before that was 1,700. 

As Apple Watch sensors and measurement tools improve along with the rest of the industry, the potential for improved health care and increased clinical trial participation is exponential.

The George Institute FoodSwitch app

The FoodSwitch App is a smartphone and smart watch application created by the George Institute for Global Health.

The FoodSwitch offers up information about foods that the user scans with the app while in the grocery store or a restaurant. The app improves their food choices by suggesting healthier alternatives.

Professor Bruce Neal of The George Institute explains how FoodSwitch has made a healthier diet more accessible, “Good eating habits are one of the best ways to prevent disease and as long as food labels remain a mystery to many, FoodSwitch will be here to help Australians do what they can to reduce the risk of dying early from two of the nation’s biggest killers: heart attack and stroke.”   The app is now available in a range of regions around the globe.  

Emerging wearable technologies

Although wristbands and smart watches are the most popular wearables on the market today, new wearable technology is on the horizon.

The future of wearables as they will be used in clinical trials and healthcare is bright and will not just be limited to wristbands and smart watches. Other types include smart fabrics, intelligent sensors, ingestables, and even smart contact lenses will all be on the market soon and available for use in clinical trials.

Ingestibles (medications in pill form that can be tracked throughout the body) were just recently approved by the FDA. Once swallowed ingestibles will be able to record electrocardiogram activity, diagnostic imaging and more (definitely more than vitals measured with wristband devices).