The demand for wearable medical devices is taking off with the availability of sophisticated technology and big data analytics. These developments, combined with the need for a cost-effective way to monitor patients’ vital signs on an ongoing basis, are driving this area of medical technology.
FitBit and Apple Watch first drew consumer attention for fitness and sports monitoring. Medical-grade wearables take patient health monitoring to a higher level in applications for chronic care, home healthcare and remote patient monitoring. Many of these devices are undergoing the approval process required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for wearables used in tracking medical conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension, sleep disorders, obesity and heart disease.
Medical wearables help patients and their doctors gather information to diagnose and address health conditions. They are always “on,” so they continuously collect vast amounts of patient data and can perform the following functions:
- Activity monitoring – The device collects physiological data from the patient wearing it throughout the day and night.
- Data analysis – Advanced algorithms enable the patient’s data to be analyzed in near real-time. Historical data can be combined with new data to reveal insights on behaviors, health patterns and trends.
- Feedback – Summarized data can be presented in charts and tables, down to a fairly detailed level, to help patients make decisions about medication and lifestyle changes to improve their health outcomes.
One of the benefits of medical wearables is that they can supplement telemedicine and remote monitoring of patients. The increase in the elderly population coupled with the need for continuous monitoring makes this an effective approach for many doctors and their patients. Telemedicine is showing positive results as a cost-effective way to treat chronically ill patients by reducing hospitalizations and the need for long-term care. Remote patient monitoring is expected to grow by 25% over the next seven years.
Physicians are prescribing medical wearables for their patients for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. These applications include:
- Vital sign monitoring – heart rate, pulse, blood pressure
- Sleep monitoring
- Fetal and obstetric monitoring
- Neurological monitoring
- Pain management
- Insulin tracking
- Epilepsy monitoring
- Respiratory therapy
- Prosthetic monitoring
Medical wearables are considered a growth market for investment, with the global market expected to reach nearly $28 billion by 2022.
 “Top health industry issues of 2016: Thriving in the New Health Economy,” a report by the PWC Health Research Institute, December 2015. Available at: https://www.pwc.com/us/en/health-industries/top-health-industry-issues/assets/2016-us-hri-top-issues.pdf
 “Wearable Medical Device Market Worth $27.8 Billion By 2022,” press release from Grand View Research, February 2016. Available at: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-wearable-medical-device-darket
 “Wearable Medical Device Market Worth $27.8 Billion By 2022,” press release from Grand View Research, Feb. 2016. Available at: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-wearable-medical-device-darket
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