Will Wearable Medical Devices Take Off? Here's What We Think
From smartwatches that track daily fitness activity to patches that detect blood glucose levels and monitor breast health, wearable medical devices are the latest fad in health care these days. According to a report published by IndustryARC, the wearable medical devices industry is estimated to reach a market value of $41.3 billion by 2020, up from 2015's $15.7 billion. This translates to an annual growth rate of 21.3 percent from 2015 to 2020—proving that the potential of the wearable medical device market is practically infinite.
How Wearable Medical Devices Impact Healthcare
Thanks to these devices, data collection and healthcare management have become easier for all of us. Physicians are provided with a steady stream of data about how their patients are doing despite infrequent checkups. Some wearable technology automatically sends data about organ function and disease markers straight to the physicians, hence giving them access to in-depth information when they are trying to diagnose a disease or monitor a chronic disease like diabetes.
There are even wearables specifically designed to assist doctors with their medical procedures. For example, Google Glass is now being worn by a number of surgeons and medical students during surgeries in order to give them the perfect point of view while doing the procedure.
On the other hand, patients are also quickly adapting to the new industry as it allows them to take responsibility for their own health. A decade ago, patients relied on a physician's professional opinion to monitor their treatment and health progress. With wearable medical devices, they can educate themselves and make decisions on their own health issues.
Even portable pain relief devices are being developed in order to eliminate the need for daily pain medication for over 1.5 billion chronic pain sufferers all over the globe. An example of this is the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) patch, which delivers low-voltage electrical stimulation to alleviate pain. It is connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone app that allows physicians to track and manage the patient's pain.
It is certainly a win-win situation for both sides of the health care spectrum as these devices enhance doctor- patient interaction.
Security Problems in the Wearable Medical Devices Industry
But like any new industry, the wearable medical device market is also facing a number of challenges. Foremost of these are cyber security and privacy concerns, as hackers can compromise medical devices to gain access not just to a patient's health record but also to complex hospital networks. More often than not, these security and privacy risks are only exposed once hackers have successfully infiltrated the system and created media waves.
In order to solve these security problems, we think that wearable medical device manufacturers should establish a secure hardware and software development process from the very beginning. This should include secure code analysis so that vulnerabilities are quickly identified. There should also be security-related testing before it is released to the market. The deployment process should also include cross-authentication of both the device and the network so that the device does not transmit confidential information to a ghost network.
With proper cyber security, we believe that these wearable devices can deliver better medical services, reduce the cost of healthcare, and improve the overall quality of life for its users. Once this core challenge is solved, then we will probably see the market start to explode with growth and opportunity.