More consumers are interested in, buying, using, and wearing technology and apps that feed their health and exercise data into the cloud. Similarly, increasing numbers of health providers and governments are looking to expand their healthcare systems to reach a more mobile population, lower costs, and improve diagnosis and patient monitoring activities.
These trends are turning out be good news for designers and manufacturers of portable medical devices. And, the promise of continual growth is not just a pipedream for companies involved in this value chain.
MarketsandMarkets reported recently that the total wireless portable medical device market is expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.83 billion in 2020, at an estimated compounded annual growth rate of 9.51% from 2014 to 2020. (Subscription required for the report.)
MarketsandMarkets attributes the portable medical device boon to a handful of factors, including a rapidly growing world population, a steadily increasing ageing population, increasing income levels and greater awareness about health and wellness. Likewise, the firm said:
A rise in lifestyle diseases, increasing urbanization and healthcare facilities expansion have increased the demand for personalized medical care, boosting the growth of the portable medical industry. With the advent of smart and advanced wireless capabilities, this medical field has become one of the most intriguing with the promise of great potential for healthcare sector. Additionally, government expenditures on healthcare are increasing continuously in various countries; this is also a major driving factor for the growth of wireless portable medical device market.
These factors bring with them huge potential for expanding research and development in healthcare and will widen the door for innovative applications and hardware used for health and patient monitoring, medical therapeutics, diagnosis and fitness and wellness, the company said.
As EBN's Hailey McKeefry pointed out in her article, Top 10 Wearables Kickstarter Projects of 2014, the wearables market is gaining lots of attention from consumers, engineers, designers, manufacturers, venture capitalisits, and crowdsourcing funders. While not all of the emerging wearable ideas will singularly focus on individual well-being, the most evolutionary and disruptive ones will likely boast new forms of human interaction and connectivity with diagnostic devices.
This cross-over between human interaction developments and improved diagnostic capability among healthcare providers could affect the way OEMs and component suppliers serve the shifting MedTech market.
For instance, the recent Health Wearables: Early Days report from PwC's Health Research Institute and Consumer Intelligence Series found that there are high hopes for wearables and how their widespread use could have significant health-related results. Of the 1,000 U.S. consumers surveyed, 56% believe that the average life expectancy will grow by 10 years because of wearable-enabled monitoring of our vital signs, and 46% said they believe wearable technology will decrease obesity by allowing people to monitor nutrition and exercise.
If those kinds of projections come true, to some extent or another, product designers and supply chain professionals will want to start thinking now about how to lower device costs, integrate data across different platforms and improve device interoperability with various consumer and commercial devices and systems.
"As wearable technology becomes cheaper and more sophisticated, and data quality improves, these devices and their associated apps will become a part of consumers' lives and the health ecosystem," the PwC report recommended. "The devices will need to be seamlessly interoperable, more self-sufficient and free from additional steps such as syncing and powering. Companies will need to interpret and use data streaming from these devices. The software side of wearables will be emphasized as much as the hardware."
Beyond consumer-oriented wearables, the MedTech industry could see a proliferation of other types of personal medical devices, noted a Silicon Laboratories Inc. white paper. Citing Gartner research, devices such as blood glucose monitors, blood pressure monitors, insulin pumps and heart rate monitors represent the fastest-growing segment in the medical equipment market.
Like PwC, Silicon Labs, a mixed-signal semiconductor company, notes that portable medical devices should offer the following features, if they are to succeed in the market:
- Ease of use
- Highly reliable and safe (government-regulated) operation
- Easy, secure connectivity
- Low-power operation (i.e., long battery life)
- Support for a wide range of voltages (especially lower voltages)
- High measurement accuracy
- Small form factors
- Affordable cost
From Silicon Labs' perspective (which can be expected given what they make), delivering these product features to consumers cost efficiently means "medical device developers must reduce system cost by limiting the number of discrete components within the design. Semiconductor suppliers also are tasked with supplying highly integrated embedded control solutions that enable increased performance and reliability within strict power and cost budgets. At the heart of these portable device designs are highly integrated mixed-signal microcontrollers (MCUs) designed to deliver exceptional processing performance at the lowest supply currents."
And you, what do you think? What else will be needed to meet these Med Tech requirements?