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Wearables: electronic gadgets or medical prevention? – ICT news


Wearables are now mainly useful gadgets, but these wearable technological devices can also contribute to more prevention, according to Gretel Schrijvers of Mensura.

A watch that reminds you of the necessary things to do, a smartphone that draws your attention to your heartbeat: these are two examples of wearables that we all know. These are mostly (sometimes) useful gadgets, but at Mensura we are convinced that this wearable technology can help to do more prevention. Thanks to wearables, for example, we can detect in time the latent affection that is stress. If we want to avoid burnouts or physical illnesses, we will thus help to keep our social security, which is already under great pressure, afloat.

Our current welfare legislation is and remains an important milestone, but it needs to be updated. If we integrate technology and the data it generates into our approach to wellness, we will achieve a quantum leap in prevention. So what are we waiting for?

A contemporary form of prevention

An annual or fortnightly visit to the occupational physician is particularly useful for detecting work-related health risks, but it is still a snapshot. During the year or half-year that elapses between checks, there is in fact no monitoring. This is also absolutely not the case for a large group of employees who never have to visit the occupational doctor.

‘Wearables can give valuable feedback to users and occupational physicians on changes in physical and mental health’

The solution is nevertheless on our wrist or in the pocket of our pants and is called the wearable. These digital devices capture large amounts of data daily. They can thus give valuable feedback to users and occupational physicians on the evolution of physical and mental health. Stress, lack of sleep or ergonomic inconvenience are often hidden issues that can be detected in time using a wearable.

Better prevention is beneficial for society

Does that sound a bit abstract to you? I will then be more concrete by taking two examples. To make workers work in an ergonomically responsible way in a car manufacturing company, Mensura has developed, together with the Swedish institute Karlinska, a ‘smart’ T-shirt. Sensors built into it measure the back inclination of workers leaning forward in a production environment. If a certain safety limit is crossed, the T-shirt lets you know by vibrating. Such a practical solution stimulates the awareness of ergonomic movements among workers.

Controlling the feeling of stress is also possible by wearing a wearable. In a large transport company, we use a smart watch to determine the pulse of truck drivers. Based on this, the Mindstretch software defines how much energy they consume, but also how much they recover from it. Thanks to the use of the Mindstretch monitor, it is possible to intervene in the event of an incipient stress problem, before it escalates.

Data: a gold mine in the service of well-being

This data can represent a real gold mine for our well-being, especially if we thus save costs for our social security through better prevention. To arrive at correct legislation, we cannot lose sight of the confidentiality aspect. The practical use of this valuable data requires both meaningful and clear agreements about how we capture, store and share this information. This requires a substantive discussion between employees, employers, internal and external services, treating physicians, trade unions and all other actors involved.

‘The practical use of valuable data requires both valid and clear agreements on how we capture, store and share this information’

Also, the goal is not for wearable technology to have an inappropriate impact and cause additional stress. It is therefore important that the interpretation of the data collected is always carried out by a doctor or a nurse. This helps to avoid misinterpretations as much as possible. The data economy is already a reality today. Let us therefore use it responsibly for our individual and public well-being.

Gretel Schrijvers is Managing Director of Mensura, the external service for prevention and protection at work.

A watch that reminds you of the necessary things to do, a smartphone that draws your attention to your heartbeat: these are two examples of wearables that we all know. These are mostly (sometimes) useful gadgets, but at Mensura we are convinced that this wearable technology can help to do more prevention. Thanks to wearables, for example, we can detect in time the latent affection that is stress. If we want to avoid burnouts or physical illnesses, we will thus help to keep our already heavily strained social security afloat. Our current welfare legislation is and remains an important milestone, but it needs to be updated. If we integrate technology and the data it generates into our approach to wellness, we will achieve a quantum leap in prevention. So what are we waiting for? An annual or fortnightly visit to the occupational physician is particularly useful for detecting work-related health risks, but it is nonetheless a snapshot. During the year or half-year that elapses between checks, there is in fact no monitoring. This is also absolutely not the case for a large group of employees who never have to visit the occupational doctor. The solution is nevertheless on our wrist or in the pocket of our pants and is called the wearable. These digital devices capture large amounts of data daily. They can thus give valuable feedback to users and occupational physicians on the evolution of physical and mental health. Stress, lack of sleep or ergonomic inconveniences are often hidden issues that can be detected in time by means of a wearable. Does this seem somewhat abstract to you? I will then be more concrete by taking two examples. To make workers work in an ergonomically responsible way in a car manufacturing company, Mensura has developed, together with the Swedish institute Karlinska, a ‘smart’ T-shirt. Sensors built into it measure the back inclination of workers leaning forward in a production environment. If a certain safety limit is crossed, the T-shirt lets you know by vibrating. Such a practical solution stimulates the awareness of ergonomic movements among workers. Controlling the feeling of stress is also possible by wearing a wearable. In a large transport company, we use a smart watch to determine the pulse of truck drivers. Based on this, the Mindstretch software defines how much energy they consume, but also how much they recover from it. Through the use of the Mindstretch monitor, it is possible to intervene in the event of an incipient stress problem, before it escalates. This data can represent a veritable gold mine for our well-being, especially if we do so. save costs to our social security through better prevention. To arrive at correct legislation, we cannot lose sight of the confidentiality aspect. The practical use of this valuable data requires both meaningful and clear agreements about how we capture, store and share this information. This requires a substantive discussion between employees, employers, internal and external services, treating physicians, trade unions and all other actors involved. Furthermore, the objective is not for wearable technology to have a misplaced impact and causes additional stress. It is therefore important that the interpretation of the data collected is always carried out by a doctor or a nurse. This helps to avoid misinterpretations as much as possible. The data economy is already a reality today. Let us therefore use it responsibly for our individual and public well-being. Gretel Schrijvers is Managing Director of Mensura, the external service for prevention and protection at work.





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