What is the Wearable Clinic?

Posted on March 1, 2019

In our last post, we discussed how wearable technology could be used to create a smart, dynamic, ultra-connected healthcare system, with innovative possibilities ranging from acting as ‘wearable’ artificial kidneys to enabling automatic hospital triage.

While these innovations are on the horizon, our current healthcare system is not quite ready to incorporate wearable technology. There are still scientific and practical challenges to overcome before wearables can be fully integrated into healthcare. For example, how do we establish the accuracy and reliability of such devices? How do we optimise battery life? . How can we take into account patient preferences and address concerns about privacy and security?

Researchers working on the EPSRC-funded project “The Wearable Clinic” are using innovative methods to tackle challenges like these and create a blueprint for how the NHS could use wearable technologies to care for patients with long-term conditions.


Currently, patients with long-term conditions attend clinics at regular intervals, where they might have tests, discuss progress with their care team and discuss any fluctuations in their symptoms. But they still spend less than 1% of their time in clinical contact, and more than 99% at home in their community.

As a result, it is no surprise that fluctuations in symptoms rarely coincide with scheduled appointments. Patients may sometimes feel they are wasting their and clinicians’ time by travelling to appointments when they are feeling well. More dangerously, patients can find their condition worsening in between appointments, potentially leading to unplanned hospital admissions which can be extremely stressful and disruptive.

Wearable Clinic researchers are investigating how wearable technology could be used to improve this situation, allowing clinicians to work collaboratively with patients to better manage long-term conditions. They will combine data about symptoms, lifestyles and clinical care to produce dynamic, flexible care plans for patients that adapt in real time in response to changes in health and risk g. But how will they do this?


In order to create this blueprint for how the NHS could use wearable technologies, the Wearable Clinic has enlisted data scientists, computer analysts, health economists, software developers and electronic engineers. To test the blueprint, they will look at two distinct areas of healthcare: detecting relapse earlier in patients with psychosis and monitoring blood pressure outside of the clinic in patients with chronic kidney disease.

Data scientists are analysing health data to see if they can find patterns that show when symptoms flare up, and what might trigger these fluctuations. These analyses will be used to create risk prediction algorithms.

Computer scientists are creating algorithms that take into account predicted risks, individual health and care goals and available care resources in the patient’s specific environment, to produce personalised care plans for patients with long-term conditions.

Electronic engineers are studying how to improve the efficiency of wearable devices to provide the right data at the right time over sustained periods without draining the battery.

Health economists and public engagement specialists are working with patients with long-term conditions to understand their preferences and priorities for new models of healthcare using wearables.  This will feedback into the design, to ensure the wearable clinic is acceptable to patients.

Software developers are integrating these insights into a set of software tools that will combine electronic health records and data collected by the patients’ wearable device to create a bigger picture of health that can be shared with clinicians and patients.

Clinicians will be able to intervene as soon as they see symptoms are worsening, rather than waiting until the next clinic visit. Equally, patients with long-term conditions will have their health information at their fingertips, allowing them to change how they manage their conditions when they see their symptoms fluctuate in real time.

These innovations in wearable technology will help to overcome the barriers that prevent the full potential of wearables in healthcare being realised, and will lead the way for a dynamic, connected, collaborative world of healthcare.

Find out more about the Wearable Clinic here, and look out for our next blog post which will take a closer look at the first of two test cases,  how wearables could help patients with chronic kidney disease.