Wearable technology could boost Australian health care

Consumer technology is the focus of a new study exploring how the latest innovations could revolutionise the medical sector.

Engineers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have received a $322,800 Australian Research Council Discovery grant, which will help assess the various ways that wearable devices can boost health care provision.

Currently, wearables are commonly used to track health and fitness, collecting information such as heart rate, exercise levels and sleep quality. Nike , Jawbone UP and Fitbit are just some of the devices popular among sports enthusiasts, with Google and Apple also beginning to enter the space.

Associate Professor Vijay Sivaraman from UNSW's School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications department said medical practitioners could put fitness data to much better use.

For example, doctors can track patients more effectively at home and optimise the diagnostic process. The technology is also expected to help insurance providers gauge the fitness levels of policyholders.

"Health care costs are ballooning in much of the western world, increasing the burden on primary care delivery, and exacerbating the occurrence of acute events requiring hospital care," he explained.

"A significant opportunity exists to curtail these growing demands on our health care system by engaging patients in at-home medical management using emerging wireless sensor technology."

The three-year project will examine ways of making consumer devices secure enough to feed information into the health care system without being compromised by malware and other external threats.

UNSW engineers hope to develop ultra-lightweight algorithms and mechanisms that can be used with existing wearable technology to ensure data integrity with minimal adjustments. 

"Secure, non-intrusive medical monitoring can offer quality-of-life for millions of patients with chronic conditions or age-related illnesses, while providing critical data for health care providers at [a] dramatically reduced cost," Mr Sivaraman stated.

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