EKG on your wrist: Will wearable devices change healthcare?

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KardiaBand for Apple Watch (Courtesy of Alivecor)

First came fitness wearables. You track how many steps you take, how many calories you burn. But now medical technology companies are getting into the mix with health wearables that are innovating the health sector.

The selection of innovative gadgets and apps have the ability to monitor your vital signs, blood pressure, and even take an electrocardiogram within seconds without stepping foot in a doctor's office.

"These medical gadgets will transform healthcare because it puts the power in the patient's hands," Dr. Keri Peterson of Lenox Hill Hospital said.

One of those devices is Alivecor's Kardiaband, an EKG reader. The Food and Drug Administration has just cleared it as the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch.

"What makes is extraordinary is that you can take an electrocardiogram, which used to have to require you to go to the hospital, you can take that anytime in 30 seconds just by putting your finger on the band," Alivecor CEO Vic Gundotra said.

The electrocardiogram gives you a lot more information than just your heart rate. In fact, Gundotra said that doctors use EKGs to diagnose many different kinds of heart arrhythmias and irregularities.

"This is potentially a lifesaving device for people," he said. "The ability to early detect that you have something wrong with your heart is absolutely game-changing and amazing."

Then you have Sensogram's Sensoscan clip, which measures your blood pressure, heart rate, oxygenation, and respiration.

"Sensocan is the first wearable wireless non-invasive blood pressure monitor. And it's optical—so there's no pressure, there's no squeezing. You can wear it overnight," Sensogram Technologies President Ernie Ianace said. "You can scroll through the vitals." He said it will read the wearer's blood pressure changes for as long as they have it on. It also shows heartrate."

Sensogram also has the Vital Band, a wearable smartwatch designed for the senior care market, and the Senso ring, which will be ready for the market shortly.

"This ring does 17 different functions. It works, it's been tested and approved by the Department of Defense," Ianace said. "It does all the major vital signs including EKG."

Dr. Peterson said these wearable gadgets are allowing patients to take charge of their own health and that devices like these can potentially save lives.

"Some of the new devices, for example, can help determine if a patient is going into atrial fibrillation, which is a serious arrhythmia," she said. "If we can detect these arrhythmias when they're occurring, when we don't necessarily see them when they come to visit us in the office, then we can treat it and we can prevent complications like stroke."

One of the downfalls of all this medical technology is that the plethora of data provided, Peterson said. Finding data points that are meaningful and that impact care can be difficult.