Over the past few years, the interest in wearable technology has surged exponentially. Seemingly everywhere you go, someone in close proximity to you will be wearing a piece of technology. These devices range from smart-watches to advanced heart rate monitors, sleep trackers, and so much more. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The future of wearable technology is incredibly promising, with a predicted focus on the embedding of wearables in clothing, skin patches, and electronic skin, and the continued exploration of VR capabilities.
Rooted in the provision of high-tech and convenience in equal measure, wearable devices promise seamless access to advanced digital offerings and data-rich monitoring. In fact, revenue in the wearables segment is projected to reach $301 million this year alone, and Deloitte predicts that the global market for enterprise wearables — including smart watches, smart glasses, hearables, and exoskeletons — is expected to grow 41 percent annually to exceed US$60 billion in 2022. Moreover, studies indicate that U.S. adults used nearly 77 million wearable devices in 2017.
But, what if we told you they had an even greater potential? What if we told you they could help to save a life?
The Demand for Enhanced Staff Safety Technology
In the realm of safety technology, wearable devices include ‘smart’ protective equipment, sensors, heart rate monitors, panic buttons, and more. This technology aims to ensure the continued health and safety of employees; particularly, lone workers who are often placed in vulnerable, high-risk environments. In a recent survey of about 1,000 safety professionals, more than one-half of respondents said they favored using wearables to track safety risk factors. Professionals most in favor, not surprisingly, tended to work in high-risk industries, including healthcare workers.
Across the healthcare industry, workplace violence is a serious problem. Studies show that (from 2002 to 2013), incidents of serious workplace violence requiring days off for the injured worker to recuperate were four times more common in healthcare than in private industry on average. Moreover, in 2013, the broad “healthcare and social assistance” sector had 7.8 cases of serious workplace violence per 10,000 full-time employees. Across hospitals, nursing homes, and other wellness facilities, healthcare providers face a number of risks while performing their duties including but not limited to:
- Verbal threats from patients, visitors, or intruders
- Sexual harassment by patients, visitors, or intruders
- Physical attacks by patients, distraught family members
- Violence in the emergency department
- Violence related to domestic disputes
- Injury due to physical strain on the job
The healthcare realm finds itself in a position to change the landscape and invest in safety technologies which can ensure the well-being of their staff both now and in the future.
Is Wearable Technology the Future of Staff Safety?
As the conversation surrounding staff safety continues to develop in tandem with evolving legislative guidelines, many healthcare facilities are considering the use of new-age safety devices (ESDs). These devices come in various formats, utilizing Bluetooth beacon technology to track the precise location coordinates of an employee distress call, both on and off property, across multi-level buildings. Moving beyond the legacy framework of a traditional noisemaker, these devices offer employees a discreet way to call for help, using an app on their smartphone, or a small, handheld device. The user-friendly, intuitive solution can seamlessly integrate with a hospital’s existing infrastructure, and offer healthcare workers the peace of mind that help is on the way within seconds of an alert.
While this technology is undeniably effective and an important step towards a safer future for the hospitality industry, we can’t help but assume that the next step involves taking that core technology and making it wearable. After all, this is not an entirely new concept for healthcare. Already, there exists wearable products, such as a Sleep Tracker or SAFTE (Sleep, Activity, Fatigue, Task Effectiveness) Fatigue Model which are designed specifically for employees in 24/7 workforces, such as hospital workers. These products, offered in the form of a wristband, help to optimize sleep, and manage fatigue using Bluetooth technology. Another company, Blackline Safety, has designed wearable safety devices for gas detection, lone worker monitoring and more. The device uses global 3G and satellite connectivity to monitor personnel in real-time, while worn on the safety jacket or the uniform. In the case of an incident, the device triggers an alert through 3G and satellite connectivity to emergency personnel, and help is provided. Now, let’s imagine this same, wearable format, with the built-in power of an intuitive safety platform that closely monitors and protects healthcare staff in the event of an emergency. Sounds rather compelling, doesn’t it?
Looking forward, wearable panic button applications in the healthcare industry could be integrated with other devices that contain demographic and health information about staff (stress, fatigue monitoring, and more). Beyond protecting the safety of staff members and improving workplace morale, this technology also helps to limit liability for employers. Naturally, this represents an exciting next step for healthcare staff safety innovation, and PDC along with our partners, React Mobile, expect to be at the forefront of that movement.