The speed of change in healthcare requires critical attention so that early investments can make a positive impact to prepare us for the future. With demand outgrowing supply in healthcare, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates the United States will face a shortage of 61,000-94,000 physicians by 2025.
According to the same study by the AAMC, 41% of the U.S. population is expected to be aged 65 and over by 2025, which is the main driver behind rising healthcare needs. This presents the wearable technology market with excellent opportunities. While overall sales in the market are expected to hit $51 billion by 2022, the global healthcare wearables market is estimated to grab a nice portion of these sales with $19 billion by 2020. But how?
New technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) are enabling wearable products to serve as data sources for medical diagnostics applications. Beyond step-counting and heart rate monitoring, the development of components and sensor technology paired with sophisticated algorithms for data processing are helping to make information more accurate, not to mention more valuable.
Remote patient monitoring using a healthcare wearable will partially address the shortage of physicians and provide up-to-date information on consumer health conditions, including blood pressure readings and the evaluation of suspected arrhythmias. With accurate readings on body temperature and heart health, these smart devices can eventually replace everything from electrocardiograph (ECG) devices to today’s defibrillators. But it doesn’t end there.
Healthcare wearables and remote patient monitoring come in handy with military personnel, police officers, firefighters and others who are in similar emergency occupations, too. Uniforms can be built with wearable technologies built in, allowing them to adapt to the environments (by monitoring changing temperatures or measuring activity levels) and provide relief as needed.
Wearables may also be used to alert consumers to the presence of diseases such as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and more. In a recent initiative, Cyrcadia Health has been working with Nypro and Clothing+ to develop a screening device for breast cancer. By empowering women to do a monthly self-examination at home, the goal is to provide the users with an early diagnosis of breast cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in women.
The smart bra consists of two wearable patches which detect circadian changes within breast tissue. These devices and the data they provide are expected to help doctors get a better understanding of the health issues patients are facing. But health wearables can help with day-to-day health issues too.
Motion sickness affects up to 33% of the U.S. population. It prevents many people from participating and enjoying activities like boating, flying or traveling.
Utilizing their expertise in neurology, Reliefband partnered with Nypro and Radius to develop a wearable device to fight against nausea. The medical-grade wristband provides relief to those who suffer from nausea caused by motion sickness, chemotherapy or even virtual reality gaming.
Neurology is one of the fastest growing segments in the medical wearables market as it can provide non-medicated pain relief. Per Frost and Sullivan, approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, which come with the high costs of treatment and medication. Using prescription pain medications can be dangerous in the long-term, but wearable technologies are becoming a safer alternative in treating chronic pain. Neurometrix and Recovery Force are just some companies that are already leading the market with innovative solutions.
Health wearables present a tremendous opportunity for the industry and patients. With the added functionality and portability of these devices, they appeal to consumers and allow healthcare professionals access to data to remotely monitor their patients.