New developments in wearable technology are making it possible to predict and proactively respond to the flare ups associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the most common reason for hospital admissions in the United States.
Although COPD is a chronic disease, symptoms can suddenly worsen, which not only negatively affects a patient’s quality of life, but often prompts a trip to the emergency room and a hospital admission. If healthcare professionals are able to remotely monitor the physical indicators that signal potential flare-ups, they may be able to reduce hospital admissions and allow COPD patients more independence.
In April 2019, the FDA approved a wristband that incorporates remote monitoring technology to pick up on subtle changes. The Loop wristband, created by Spry Health, uses optical sensors to measure oxygen saturation in the blood, respiration rate, and heart rate, then connects to a software platform that analyzes the data for early signs of an exacerbation.
A 2017 study demonstrated that changes in oxygen saturation, respiration rate, and heart rate can predict an exacerbation of symptoms in COPD patients and that digital monitoring of those changes can help health professionals decide when an intervention or hospital admission is in order. Ideally, in a chronic disease, such as COPD, consistent monitoring delivers the best results, but that’s difficult to do when a patient is not under direct medical supervision. Predictive changes in heart rate and breathing are often so subtle that patients don’t notice them, which is where a monitoring device like a wristband comes in.
Usability is an important factor in patient adherence. If patients find it easier to wear a wristband than to use a pulse oximeter—which measures pulse rate, oxygen saturation and respiratory rate—this device may help improve communication about vital signs between COPD patients and their healthcare providers.
A pilot study conducted by Spry Health found that patients had a high adherence rate with the wristband. Ninety-two percent of the patients who received it wore it for at least three hours a day. Patients can wear the wristband for periods of up to 24 hours, but, since the system does not provide physiological alarms, the technology must be monitored by a healthcare professional.