A wearable medical device is defined as a biosensor that monitors physiological data, usually with remote/wireless communication, as a part of any wearable item that attaches to the body. Most wearable medical devices till date have been concentrating in the areas of fitness and exercise like walking, jogging and running. They also measure other parameters such as muscle activity, calories burned, heart rate, etc. Some products also include GPS tracking and monitoring to enhance accurate measurement of distance.
The wearable technology industry is on the rise in both personal and medical use segments. Last decade has witnessed unprecedented globalization, with cross-border trading resulting in maturation in international supply chains with highly responsive logistical networks, which enhanced competition in the global market and created a price based race. The rise of wearable medical devices is attributed to a larger societal disposition towards the Internet of Things. Although the IoT, has been around for many years, it is just starting to pick up its grip. A growing ecosystem of mobile operating systems, as well as an improving cloud computing infrastructure and the widespread availability of cheaper wireless sensors in the consumer electronics segment, have glimpsed to the profitability of the medical technology sector.
Benefits of wearable medical devices are wide and clear. They make patient data readily accessible and help in reducing the frequency of visits to a doctor and in doing so they alleviate the burden on our healthcare system. Increasing disposable income in many economies, more global competition, access to cheaper labour and never-ending consumer demand for the next best thing are major factors boosting the growth of the market. In the consumer section, the technological convergence of portable consumer electronics such as smart watches and fitness devices along with professional medical equipment such as pulse oximetry, ECG and Glucose meters are increasingly blurring the position between equipment designed for practitioners and devices used by consumers.
Major characteristic attributes driving the wearable medical devices industry are user-friendliness and self-monitoring facilities. Growing health awareness among people and an ever increasing incidence of certain conditions associated with morbidity and mortality rates are also propelling the wearable medical devices market. According to the American Stroke Organization, cardiovascular disease is the most important cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030. Cardiac monitoring devices assist in monitoring the morbid condition in a cost-effective manner.
A recent trend making a significant impact on the market is the emergence of innovative diagnostic wearable medical devices. Smartwatches are the dominating category within the wearable medical devices according to many sources. Smart wristbands and Google Glass may have billion-dollar potential in the near future. Companies such as Fitbit and jawbone are continuously adopting new technologies to meet growing consumer needs. Consumers are constantly looking for additional indications, applications, and easy usability. Therefore, companies across various geographies are focusing on improving the diagnostic features and incorporating multi-functionality.
Still, many consumers in developing countries see that there is no need for wearable devices or feel that the costs of these medical devices are unjustifiable given their lifestyle. Greater usefulness and perceived value of the devices driven by functionality and standalone capabilities like being able to operate without a smartphone or some other external device will help in enhancing consumer acceptance. Low consumer adherence/compliance is seen especially in devices that have to be worn 24/7. Recent studies have shown that, within 18 months, fewer than 50 per cent of the consumers keep on using the device. We suspect that the decrease is even steeper and occurs earlier because of wearing a device on a 24/7 basis may be considered too interruptive, difficult, or unreasonable for most consumers.
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