A recent study at the University of Waterloo suggests that complex health conditions and behaviors that result from it can be monitored with wearable sensor technology. As the symptoms progress over days and even weeks, these biosensors can detect and explain patterns to better understand such behaviors. “This may be important for monitoring disease progression and the impact of therapeutics, supplementary to assessments conducted in the clinic,” comments Karen Van Ooteghem of Kinesiology and Health Sciences at Waterloo.
With the study, researchers discover methods in which acquired outcomes from the wearable devices can be validated and communicated to patients and clinicians. Therefore, the feasibility of this work must consider the study participants’ daily environments, as lab behaviors can largely differ from natural ones.
39 participants with cerebrovascular or neurodegenerative diseases were observed throughout the study. With up to five devices attached to their bodies on their ankles, wrists, and chest, participants spent seven continuous days at home and in their communities after a clinic visit; there was a median of 98% during the research period in wearing at least three devices per participant. Additional individuals were also partnered to study participants to minimize complications. This support, however, may have affected study results.
The assistance provided to the study participants could have influenced their willingness to wear the monitoring technology, as said by Beth Godkin, first author of the paper and a Waterloo Kinesiology and Health Sciences doctoral student. The technology itself, researchers reflect, could have also improved to magnify user comfort and accessibility.
Comfort, ease of use, and the overall appearance of the technology were crucial to consider, as the sensors would be worn for long periods of time. The interference of the technology in performing daily tasks was also a factor suggested by the participants, suggesting a continuous effort to improve the technology. “The generally positive response from participants and willingness to engage in multi-sensor wear over an extended period is the necessary first step towards meaningful integration of our approach in larger research studies and eventually, for uptake within clinical care,” Godkin concludes.