Future Wearables in Health Care

Frost & Sullivan research indicates that the global market for medical and clinical-grade wearables with regulatory approvals will be worth $8 billion by 2020. Read more about companies developing innovations in this space.

The Internet of Medical Things era is dawning, in which an ecosystem of connected medical and consumer technologies support targeted health and wellbeing services. Wearables are an important component as they evolve from simple consumer devices that measure pulse rate and count steps to complex systems for actionable health care applications. Wearable developers are increasingly targeting specific health needs to empower individuals for self-health management—especially of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, arrhythmia, pain, and respiratory and neurological conditions.

Frost & Sullivan’s Transformation Health business unit tracks disruptive innovations in the wearables industry and recognizes clinical-grade and consumer tech devices as the major market segments. Functionality, convenience and reliability are the major considerations in wearable design and development to create devices that are passive and comfortable and provide positive reinforcement to users. Recent developments in electronic skin, exoskeletons and mobility devices, smart gloves, sweat sensors, monitoring patches, smart bandages and smart clothing—some of which have been discussed in previous articles—are adding momentum to this high-potential market.

Effective collection of individual health information, more actionable outputs and clinical validation are the needs of the hour. Demand also is increasing for the ability to integrate data from wearables into electronic health records.

Frost & Sullivan’s health care analysts have identified these companies as contributors to the future of wearables.

AliveCor (Mountain View, Calif.)

AliveCor disrupted the electrocardiography (ECG) market with Kardia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared device that uses electrode pads linked to a smartphone app to record heart rate. A user simply places two fingers on each of two pads on the wireless device that is about one-fourth the size of an average smartphone to take a measurement in about 30 seconds. Kardia addresses two major pain points by making the device lead free—no wires, patches or gels—and by allowing real-time monitoring of atrial fibrillation with a medical-grade ECG. The monitor costs $99, and the app is available for iOS and Android devices. The SmartRhythm monitoring software’s artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms crates a full cardiac health platform.  With the ability to identify atrial fibrillation with 96% specificity and 100% sensitivity, Kardia is effective for heart-related procedure follow-ups as well as for early detection of atrial fibrillation.

Apple (Cupertino, Calif.)

Apple is a leader in developing the second generation of smart, multifunctional consumer wearables. Frost & Sullivan believes Apple HealthKit will be a game changer by assembling personal health information from a broad range of health care and fitness apps, and devices including the iPhone and Apple watch, at a single reference point: the Health app. Since its introduction in 2014, the Health app has gone through several updates and now allows patients from participating U.S. hospitals and clinics to access their personal health care records on iPhones. Apple has plans to open its health record API to third-party providers, which will allow users to share health data to a larger hospital base for disease management, medication tracking, medical research and other uses.

Ekso Bionics (Richmond, Calif.)

Exoskeletons are wearable robotic devices that enable limb movements. Ekso Bionics is a pioneer in the field with more than 10 years of experience in the industry. Ekso GT is a first-of-its-kind exoskeleton to receive FDA approval in 2016 for use in stroke and spinal cord injury rehabilitation. More than 200 U.S. clinical centers have used the technology to help patients take over 86 million steps during rehabilitation. Accompanying SmartAssist and EksoPulse software allows the rehab clinician to access quantifiable data on patient progress using a cloud-based data analytics platform.

The company has shipped more than 300 units, of which 23 are rentals—an option that gives the company an additional revenue stream. The company recorded a 75% increase in revenue and 165% increase in shipments from 2017 to 2018.

The Road Ahead

Frost & Sullivan research indicates that the global market for medical and clinical-grade wearables with regulatory approvals will be worth $8 billion by 2020. Demand is increasing for multipurpose wearables: health care companies must be able to integrate them into the digital health ecosystem to generate more value to users. Smart wearables that are capable of running third-party apps are likely to eclipse basic fitness and health trackers.

Frost & Sullivan expects elder care, mental health and women’s health to be that the next frontiers for wearable developers.

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