How Wearable Health Tech is Benefitting Veterans

Written by
Nitin Jain
Published on
December 20, 2023

In an era driven by technological innovation, the integration of wearable devices into our daily lives has revolutionized the way we approach health and wellness. Wearable health technology, once confined to basic step counters, has evolved into sophisticated devices capable of monitoring a myriad of health factors, empowering individuals to take proactive steps towards bettering their health.

Wearable technology in healthcare includes electronic devices that consumers can wear, like Fitbits, Oura Ring and smartwatches etc., all designed to collect the data of the users’ personal health, activity and exercise. This health data, also known as patient-generated health data, or PGHD, even has the ability to be sent to a patient’s VA care team in real-time.  

These devices are not mere accessories; they are constantly collecting and analyzing data such as heart rate, vitals, sleep patterns, and activity levels – even helping Veterans transform their health care through improved diabetes management. Stress levels are now quantifiable metrics that can be readily accessible at our fingertips where such data empowers users to track their fitness progress, adjust behaviors, and make informed decisions about their health.

What’s really interesting is how these wearable devices can give insight in identifying pain, sleep, and anxiety outcomes after traumatic stress exposure. This is extremely useful information to have among our Veterans because PTSD is more common amongst veterans than civilians.  

A recent study was conducted demonstrating that 24-hour rest-activity patterns monitored by wrist-worn devices could predict unfavorable symptom developments within the 8-week period after exposure to traumatic stress. During this 8-week timeframe following the trauma, changes in multiple rest-activity indicators were associated with changes in pain, sleep routines, and anxiety levels among these individuals. Moreover, basic benchmarks for these biological markers accurately pinpointed individuals experiencing significant improvements in pain, sleep quality, and anxiety, demonstrating strong predictive capability. The findings propose that utilizing 24-hour rest-activity patterns captured by these devices could potentially pinpoint individuals within high-risk populations who are likely to recover from trauma.

“These findings are important both to identify specific individuals who are vulnerable to pain and mental health problems after trauma, and to test potential treatments focused on reducing these problems for individuals who have recently experienced traumatic events,” said lead author Laura Straus, PhD, staff research psychologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco.

The study observed correlations between various rest-activity metrics and the evolution of pain across time. Moreover, it discovered a link between objective sleep/wake disruptions and alterations in pain levels, self-reported sleep disturbances, and anxiety. These outcomes underscore the potential of wrist-wearable technology in recognizing individuals who might require additional assessment and assistance following a traumatic event.

This research is very exciting because it indicates that objective biomarkers obtained through wearable devices might serve as screening instruments the VA can use to better serve our nation’s Veterans. These tools could assist both patients and physicians in determining whether post-trauma symptoms are improving or worsening.

InnoVet Health is proud to be supporting VA’s Office of Connected Care (OCC), where Veterans now have the option to share their Patient Generated Health Data (PGHD) from these wearables tech electronically with their VA care team at any time — without waiting for your next health care appointment! VA’s Connected Care webpage shares some ways Veterans can track and share their PGHD with their VA care team in a protected and secure manner.  

The information collected from wearables holds promise in aiding Veterans coping with PTSD by assisting in the identification of pain, sleep, and anxiety outcomes following traumatic stress exposure so we can better serve our Veterans by providing additional assistance when needed.

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InnoVet Health is an IT consultant company specializing in AI/ML and business intelligence, digital services, and health interoperability founded by MIT-alumni & informatics experts. Learn more about us on our website or reach out on LinkedIn. 

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