The newest release from Apple — the Apple Watch — is hitting the shelves of your nearest Apple or electronics store in June 2015. You may have seen the ads for this new tech device, hyping its many capabilities to help us stay well, as we manage our busy day-to-day lives. The Apple Watch is being released during a time when mobile health monitoring devices, such as the FitBit, are immensely popular. With the many health functions this device offers, could an Apple Watch aid Physical Therapists in the treatment of patients? The answer is yes — and no.
It Measures Movement
With its advanced technology, the Apple Watch includes a heart rate monitor, accelerometer and gyroscope. This means it’s able to monitor how fast, how far and for how long a person has been moving. When coupled with the downloadable fitness app, it can help a person track their progress toward activity and fitness goals. Information of this sort could help patients when they’re working independently of a physical therapist, but doesn’t do much to help the hands-on treatment process.
But it’s not a Medical Device
The Apple Watch was scheduled to include several features that didn’t make it to the final product. These included monitors for blood pressure, O2 saturation and heart rhythm – tools that could be extremely helpful for therapists working with cardiac and geriatric patients. Decisions about which features are most valuable to the general population eliminated these functions from the final product.
What this means for Physical Therapists
Since it encourages health monitoring and helps bring health and fitness technology into the mainstream, the Apple watch can be viewed as at least somewhat helpful. After all, it will help encourage patients to take charge of their own wellness, and therapists can benefit in the very least from that paradigm shift, as well as the accurate data that their patients may bring to their treatment sessions. But as an actual tool for hands-on therapy treatment, the Apple Watch (at least its first edition) doesn’t bring much that is new to the therapist community.
Wouldn’t it be great to sit down with some Apple designers and dream about an electronic device that was made specifically for physical therapists? With continuing development, future editions could include health sensors and an app for charting progress. In a perfect world, Apple designers could partner with a documentation software company that would sync their software with Apple, so that measurements could be downloaded directly into the patient’s chart! These types of improvements may sound like a dream, but with thousands of people currently using a phone that accomplishes things we thought could only happen in a make believe world like the Jetson’s, who knows what the future may hold!
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