New breed of wearables

Nathan manages his respiratory disease

A recent survey “Respiratory Health of the Nation” suggest that 12.7 million people in the UK (one in five) have a history of longstanding respiratory illness and is responsible for 20% of deaths [1]. Lung disease places a heavy burden on health services, costing the EU nearly £300 billion each year [2]. Lung disease took up 10% of all hospital bed-days, compared with 12% for cardiovascular disease.

Hospital admissions and expensive medication is really only the tip of the iceberg for costs, with hidden costs of the unpaid army of carers managing individuals in the community. To control healthcare costs spiralling out of control as our population ages, treatment for this vulnerable group must now be shifted to the home, with self-management by the patient and/or family carers, supported with consumer-level monitoring tools that are web-connected, which in turn engages, empowers and educates. These devices need to be certified web-connected medical devices, which healthcare professionals trust when making treatment decisions in an effort to reduce hospitalisations.

Nathan Buzzard-Welch (aged 29) lives with the inherited disease Cystic Fibrosis (CF), where mucus clogs his lungs and gut, making it hard to breathe and digest food and is more susceptible to chest infections. Nathan volunteered for a clinical trial sponsored by small company Aseptika Limited at an NHS Trust in Cambridgeshire. Having completed the trial he continued to self-monitor his vital health signs with a set of Activ8rlives web-connected medical devices, some wearable. This allowed Nathan to see his numbers [vital health signs] which helps him understand how the day is going to go. If his blood oxygen saturation and temperature are not so good, he eases off a little and rests, takes oxygen with him, and is even more vigilant that his vitals pick up and plan life around it.

In 2014, Nathan had his worst health year of his life, having spent 129 days in hospital, and 3 months at home on IV drugs. With self-monitoring he has more than halved his hospitalisations and their duration had dropped to 31 days in the first 6 months of this year as compared to 65 days in the previous year. “It’s all about catching it early, it’s a slow progression and now that I can see my trends I can ask for medical assistance earlier and not leave it to the stage where I feel really unwell when I go in to hospital because the chest infection has already got a grip by then and is harder to treat and recover from,” commented Nathan.

Moving ever closer to a 24/7 fully wearable device is Aseptika’s BuddyWOTCHTM, a wearable smartwatch pulse oximeter combining other vital signs that detect declining respiratory health. Still in development this device will be CE marked as a Class 2 Medical Device. The Activ8rlives BuddyWOTCH would be beneficial to Nathan to track declining health, to stop his blood oxygen levels plummeting and chest infections to take a hold, requiring further hospitalisations.

By self-admission Nathan says that self-monitoring in the long-term makes his life easier, longer and better for him and wife Charlotte. Now he has the accurate facts to support his health management, he acts quickly to get support from the hospital when things are not right and the conversation is more informed because both can see his data. It is what the great sports coaches call “marginal gains” – lots of small things which when added together make a big difference. Nathan is a shining example of this in action and he can now book things at least a week ahead, when previously his life was very unpredictable.

The pulse oximetry measurement is very important to see Nathan’s declining health and normally his oxygen saturation would be between 94-96% and a reading of 90-93% is indicative of the start of a chest infection. With a flare-up his sats were down to 89%, with nebuliser and oxygen treatment bringing it up to about 92% again.


  1. Respiratory Health of the Nation project conducted by teams at St George’s University of London, Nottingham University and Imperial College London, 2015.
  2. accessed 12/08/15.