5 Innovative Wearables and their Potential for Clinical Trials

Published: 01.01.2022


More and more clinical studies are focusing on wearables. Digital technologies and innovations go far beyond smartwatches and fitness trackers. These five wearables could change clinical trials.


What are Wearables?

Wearables are small computers that can be worn on the body. They use electrodes and sensors to measure various vital signs of the wearer. When used continuously, they provide an overview of real-time data. This allows relevant information to be collected and the patient's state of health to be monitored without a great deal of effort.


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Simple data collection with the Smart Ring

It is inconspicuous and promises simple data collection: The smart ring. Placed on just one finger, directly on the arteries, it measures the wearer's heart rate and body temperature. At the same time, the ring monitors movement during the day and sleep activity at night.

Long battery life for long-term measurements

The smart ring is waterproof and has a long battery life - the gadget can be worn around the clock. This allows the ring to take long-term measurements and immediately detects changes in body temperature, for example.


With sensor in ear for televisit

It looks like a hearing aid or wireless headphones: The in-ear sensor. Small and convenient, it measures several of the wearer's vital signs:

  • body temperature

  • heart rate

  • blood oxygen saturation

  • respiratory rhythm

What is the in-ear sensor used for?

The sensor can be worn permanently in the ear and thus provides long-term monitoring of the values. At the same time, patients can use it for selective measurements. The device therefore offers important support in the field of location-independent telemedicine: E.g., its use at the start of each televisit replaces routine measurements at the site.


Preventive medicine thanks to intelligent insoles

It looks like a normal shoe insole, but inside it hides sensitive technology: With the help of a wide range of sensors, an intelligent shoe insole measures

  • body temperature

  • pressure

  • movement

Who benefits from the intelligent shoe insole?

The insole is a gadget that has so far mainly been used by competitive athletes, but is also useful for medical care. In diabetics, for example, circulatory disorders and nascent inflammation in the foot can be detected at an early stage based on temperature changes.

This allows doctors and patients to recognize deteriorating health conditions or potential complications in addition to regular visits and self-checks. A valuable innovation for monitoring patient health in real time in diabetes studies.


Contact lenses control blood sugar levels

Probably the smallest wearable on this list is a contact lens. It is also intended to improve the everyday lives of diabetes patients. Scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea are currently researching its function and effectiveness1.

How does it work? Biosensors integrated into the edge of the contact lens use a hydrogel to measure the sugar content in the tear fluid. When they react with sugar, they change their conductivity, which is evaluated and transmitted by microchips.

However, experts are still debating the possible uses of the contact lens, as it takes up to an hour before the sugar level in the blood is detected in the tear fluid. This means that the contact lens does not replace the regular measurements of patients who require insulin. However, it would be suitable for long-term monitoring of blood glucose levels in clinical studies.

Dispensing medication via contact lens

At the same time, the gadget offers an innovative treatment option: if required, the contact lens releases a medication to treat diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the retina. The medication is stored in a thin reservoir in the contact lens.


How a plaster prevents asthma attacks

An all-rounder among medical wearables: A variety of sensors can be built into an intelligent patch. Usually attached to the patient's chest or arm, it measures various vital signs:

  • body temperature

  • physical activity

  • sleep activity

  • heart rate

  • blood oxygen

  • breathing pattern

An all-rounder to improve the quality of life

If patients only recognize an asthma attack on the basis of symptoms such as coughing or heavy breathing, this is not only dangerous. Medication and measures against the triggers are also less effective than preventive medication. This is because patients find it difficult to inhale the medication during an attack. They are often exhausted afterward.

The patch analyses breathing patterns to detect an impending asthma attack, even though patients have not yet noticed any noticeable symptoms. The patch then sends a warning message to patients and the responsible study doctor via the connected app.



1Science | AAAS