Wearables in the Workplace: Potential and Pitfalls

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 2015-09-09 Email Print this article Print
Wearable computing devices

Wearable devices are likely to become common tools, so companies must consider the benefits and challenges of allowing employees to use these devices at work.

IU Health has created a competition based on the Fitbit results to get people motivated to improve their movement and overall health. The company, which is spending about $75,000 per year on subsidizing the devices, expects to see a return in reduced employee health care expenses, as well as increased productivity and effectiveness due to improved fitness.

"We've also seen improved camaraderie amongst staff, and we know that happy, healthy, fulfilled employees mean better patient care, which is our whole mission," Cooper says.

Security and privacy are not an issue for IU Health, Cooper says, as this is a voluntary program that tracks only the steps participants take. The wellness program aggregates all statistics, so administration and team members see only their own personal stats, along with the aggregate results.

Performing Surgery With Google Glass

While there are no specific plans for widespread use of other wearable technology, IU Health has used products such as Google Glass. In addition, some patients and staff use locator and communication wearable technologies.

In 2014, physicians at IU Health's Methodist Hospital became the first in Indiana to perform a surgery using Google Glass. The health care organization is also using the device as a tool to help educate other physicians and health care professionals.

"We used Google Glass to record operations so students could review their cases, providing a surgical log book of sorts," says Paul Szotek, assistant professor of clinical surgery and general surgeon at IU Health. He adds that the organization has also used the smart glass to stream a case live to a conference for large-scale crowdsourcing of operative technique and colleague training.

"In addition, I used Glass to bring radiologic pictures [CT scans] to the operating room to enhance the accuracy of the operative experience," he says. IU Health is also beginning work to use smart glasses to assess the efficiency of plasma delivery to patients in emergency situations.

As wearables take on a greater presence in the workplace, organizations will need to develop a process for managing these devices.

"Many businesses still don't have the technology in place to fully or properly manage their smartphone and tablet estate, so that should be the first priority," Ovum's Absalom advises. "Since most wearables run on basically the same operating systems as their companion smartphone, they shouldn't be difficult to manage and secure once this basic mobility management technology is in place."


Bob Violino, a Baseline contributor, is a freelance writer and editorial director at Victory Business Communications. He has covered business and technology for more than 20 years.


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