mHealth wearables that fit into healthcare providers’ remote patient monitoring goals are expected to lead to a massive surge in the wearables market.
According to ABI Research, wearables that can gather and send medical grade data from the home to the hospital will help propel the industry to more than 400 percent growth in the next four years. A market that saw 8 million devices shipped in 2016, ABI reports, will see some 33 million shipments in 2021.
"While previously professional-grade patient monitoring largely limited itself to a doctor's rounds, new wearables allow medical professionals to remotely and continuously monitor patients in the hospital and beyond," Stephanie Lawrence, a research analyst for the London-based company, said in a recent press release. "The devices send real-time alerts regarding any condition deteriorations or fluctuations, in effect reducing response times to potentially life-threatening changes and saving the healthcare system resources in the long term."
While the consumer-facing wearables market has seen steady growth, due in large part to the smartwatch and fitness bands segments, healthcare has been slow to embrace the trend because doctors, for the most part, don’t trust the data coming from those devices.
But mHealth companies like A&D Medical, Medtronic, Philips Healthcare, Nonin Medical, Nokia and even Fitbit are developing wearables that appeal to healthcare. And companies like Qardio and Tyto Care are creating devices and wearables specifically targeted to healthcare providers who want to monitor patients at home.
At ABI Research, Lawrence predicts the remote patient monitoring devices segment alone will grow by nearly 35 percent over the next five years, to take up 60 percent of the entire patient monitoring market by 2021.
mHealth advocates say remote patient monitoring will gain importance as healthcare providers look to adopt value-based care principles, either to take advantage of bundled payment programs or as part of an accountable care organization. They’ll be looking for devices and platforms that give the clinician a real-time look at the patient’s progress at home, and that enable guidance and interventions.
Philips Healthcare, one of the bigger players in the hospital-to-home space, made the move toward clinically-validated care platform last year when it announced a partnership with Qualcomm Life, whose 2net platform focuses on gathering and transmitting medical grade data from the home to the hospital.
“As the home is fast becoming a viable care setting, care providers, home health agencies and other institutions are increasingly using connected care to reduce emergency care, readmissions of patients with chronic diseases,” Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips’ connected care and health informatics business, said when the deal was announced. “By collaborating with Qualcomm Life and leveraging its connectivity and wireless expertise, we aim to help care providers to engage better with their patients and contribute to the goal of improving outcomes. Patient self-management combined with 24/7 connectivity to a care network is an emerging model that enables scalable chronic disease management for patients and providers.”
Qardio, based in San Francisco, recently announced that its remote patient monitoring devices can now integrate with eClinicalWorks’ electronic health record platform, enabling clinicians to enter data from those devices into the medical record.
“Cardiovascular health is the biggest health challenge in the developed world,” Rosario Iannella, the company’s chief technical officer, said in a recent press release. “The ability to view and analyze such important data remotely and in context, as it is being generated, can substantially enhance the diagnostic yield.”
Tyto Care is one of a handful of mHealth companies to develop two separate lines of devices, one for the consumer and one for the clinician. The Israel-based start-up also recently launched a partnership with telehealth provider American Well.
“By enabling a physical examination that virtually replicates an in-person visit, TytoCare will greatly enhance the ability of school-based clinics, nurses, home health providers, patients and family caregivers to connect and share medical information,” Karen S. Rheuban, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and co-founder of the University of Virginia Center for Telehealth who chairs the company’s advisory board, said in a 2016 press release. “The use of digital technologies that support high quality remote examinations, when integrated into care delivery models that enhance access both within the context of the medical home and in other settings, promises to transform how patients are treated today.”
Fitbit, meanwhile, announced a partnership last December in which its popular fitness band will integrate with Medtronic’s diabetes management platform, giving diabetic patients a means of incorporating fitness and sleep into their care management plans. The company’s goal is to make consumer health and wellness a part of the physician’s remote monitoring platform.
“Providers … really want to have this type of information,” Adam Pellegrini, Fitbit’s vice president of digital health, told mHealthIntelligence.com last year. “This is a very powerful educational [channel] that creates an awareness of how fitness and health play together.”