Wearable Health Devices in Health Care: Narrative Systematic Review

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2020 Nov 9;8(11):e18907. doi: 10.2196/18907.


Background: With the rise of mobile medicine, the development of new technologies such as smart sensing, and the popularization of personalized health concepts, the field of smart wearable devices has developed rapidly in recent years. Among them, medical wearable devices have become one of the most promising fields. These intelligent devices not only assist people in pursuing a healthier lifestyle but also provide a constant stream of health care data for disease diagnosis and treatment by actively recording physiological parameters and tracking metabolic status. Therefore, wearable medical devices have the potential to become a mainstay of the future mobile medical market.

Objective: Although previous reviews have discussed consumer trends in wearable electronics and the application of wearable technology in recreational and sporting activities, data on broad clinical usefulness are lacking. We aimed to review the current application of wearable devices in health care while highlighting shortcomings for further research. In addition to daily health and safety monitoring, the focus of our work was mainly on the use of wearable devices in clinical practice.

Methods: We conducted a narrative review of the use of wearable devices in health care settings by searching papers in PubMed, EMBASE, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library published since October 2015. Potentially relevant papers were then compared to determine their relevance and reviewed independently for inclusion.

Results: A total of 82 relevant papers drawn from 960 papers on the subject of wearable devices in health care settings were qualitatively analyzed, and the information was synthesized. Our review shows that the wearable medical devices developed so far have been designed for use on all parts of the human body, including the head, limbs, and torso. These devices can be classified into 4 application areas: (1) health and safety monitoring, (2) chronic disease management, (3) disease diagnosis and treatment, and (4) rehabilitation. However, the wearable medical device industry currently faces several important limitations that prevent further use of wearable technology in medical practice, such as difficulties in achieving user-friendly solutions, security and privacy concerns, the lack of industry standards, and various technical bottlenecks.

Conclusions: We predict that with the development of science and technology and the popularization of personalized health concepts, wearable devices will play a greater role in the field of health care and become better integrated into people's daily lives. However, more research is needed to explore further applications of wearable devices in the medical field. We hope that this review can provide a useful reference for the development of wearable medical devices.

Keywords: chronic disease management; health monitoring; medical field; public health; rehabilitation.; wearable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Technology
  • Wearable Electronic Devices*