The Clinical Divide: Wearable Skin Patches

Kevin Campbell, M.D.
JANUARY 29, 2019


Kevin Campbell, M.D.

Wearable devices like the AliveCor Kardia, Fitbit and Apple Watch are known for tracking step counts, heart rate and ryhthms. But what if we were able to gather even more biological data that could help us better monitor our health? What if we can actually predict disease using these data? A recent study of a new skin patch shows promise that this device can actually measure our sweat, both its composition and production rate, in order give us real-time data about our risk for chronic diseases. What can we as CEOs and doctors do to get this technology on the market?

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Welcome to the Clinical Divide. I’m Dr. Kevin Campbell, a Duke-trained cardiologist and CEO of the health data startup PaceMate. Every week, this Healthcare Analytics News™ video series examines healthcare technology and medicine’s top news. I bring the views that help physicians and healthcare executives bridge the clinical divide.

Last week, an article published in the journal Science Advances, highlighted a battery-free, skin adhesive patch that is able to provide real-time data to the consumer as well as the physician. This device can provide information on the wearer’s blood pH, sweat rate and blood chemistry — levels of chloride, glucose and lactate. Electrolyte and other chemistry abnormalities can signal chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes or a lack of oxygen. In addition, these data can help track treatment progress for other diseases as well.

This technology has great potential — instead of having patients spend time and money to go to a doctor for blood tests and wait for results, this patch will immediately send data to the wearer and physician and provide information that can impact treatment and expedite changes in therapy. These patches appear to be cost-effective and may very well lead to better control of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The wearables market continues to expand rapidly — Google recently announced the purchase of Fossil’s smartwatch tech. In addition, Verily’s smartwatch ECG reader has applied for clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Johnson & Johnson is teaming up with Apple to detect atrial fibrillation earlier.  AliveCor’s Kardia has been a leader in this market and contiues to innovate.

Now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is beginning to reimburse internal medicine doctors for this type of work.  There are now established pathways for chronic disease management that allow IM doctors to get paid for important remote follow up tasks.

We as doctors and CEO’s must come together and back the clinical trials and researchers working to develop technology that can improve our patient’s lives. We must encourage CMS to continue to remimburse developers for this technology. We must be willing to make these tools available to our patients and continue to demand a streamlined and efficient approval process from the FDA.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Clinical Divide. Until next week, I’m Dr. Kevin Campbell, for Healthcare Analytics News™.

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