How Wearable Devices are Changing Healthcare, 21% of People in the US Regularly Wear a smartwatch

February 11, 2022 | Articles

Wearable technology has been adopted in various fields in recent years. However, its most tremendous potential in healthcare applications is to address soaring healthcare costs, the rise in the geriatric population, and the burden of chronic diseases.

In the healthcare field, wearable technology is defined as a non-invasive and autonomous device, which can analyze, record, and aggregate physiological data to improve personal health and well-being. Until now, wearable devices have been used for fitness motives due to increasing consumers' expectations to monitor their health. The wearables industry is expected to balloon to a whopping USD 1,03,246.29 million by 2029.

With the beginning of a New Year, health-related resolutions take effect. The ability to connect to the Internet and exchange data between a network and a device drives the North American region for wearable adoption.

By the numbers: Approx. 21% of people (i.e., roughly one-in-five U.S. adults) in the U.S. have worn a smartwatch or fitness tracker, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted during June 3–17, 2019. Below is the detailed breakdown:

  • Of which, 18% were men and 25% were women.
  • 26% of Hispanics, 23% of blacks, and 20% of whites
  • 25% of those aged between 18–49, and 17% of those over 50 years
  • 31% of those who make USD 75,000 or above, 20% of those who make USD 30,000–USD 74,999, and 12% of those who make less than USD 30,000
  • Women are more likely than men to use these devices regularly (25% vs. 18%)
  • Hispanic adults are more likely than whites to adopt a fitness tracker (26% vs. 20%), while black adults were in between 23%

The below figure depicts the above data:

depicts data of adult use regularly wearable fitness tracker

Source: StraitsResearch Analysis

Further, the integration of wearable with various technologies such as Big Data, augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing, along with the open-source application programming interfaces (APIs), libraries, frameworks, and falling prices of sensors, is enabling fast and cost-effective solutions within the Internet of Things (IoT) system.

Recent technical advances provide value count for wearable healthcare, spotlighting diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, and prevention. These advantages are recognized through the entire healthcare value chain of wearables with benefits such as early diagnosis, personalization, information libraries, remote patient monitoring (RPM), medication adherence, and better decision making, with reduced healthcare costs.

In addition, the above advantages have gathered the attention of companies and insurers in the supply of wearable health devices to users and employees for their wide-ranging benefits. The wearable technology field's broad challenges range from data security, incentivization, and trust issues to regulatory hurdles. In the next seven to ten years, wearables are expected to become more 'seamless' and amalgamate readily into users' lives with improved connectivity and miniaturization. Further, their health-related value will be realized in the coming future.

Leaders in Wearable Healthcare

Although many lifestyle and fitness devices are not technically medical devices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has defined them as general wellness devices only. The wearable healthcare devices market includes products broadly segregated into smartwatches, activity monitors/trackers, hearables, smart clothing, skin patches, among others. The leaders in each segment are depicted below, both for traditional technology and healthcare-specific uses:

Wearable Product Type

Leaders

Smartwatches

Apple, Fitbit (Alphabet Inc.), Garmin, Samsung, Xiaomi, Omron

Hearables

Apple, Huawei, Google, Sony, Samsung, Bose, Jabra, LifeBeam, Vinci

Fitness Trackers

Alphabet Inc., Microsoft, Samsung, iHealth, AliveCor

Skin Patches

BioTelemetry, Medtronic, iRhythm

Others, including Eye Wear, Body Devices, among others.

Hexoskin, Owlet, Neofect, Epson, eSight

Source: StraitsResearch Analysis

The Demand for Wearable Devices to be Bolstered by Government Boosts and Investments

Research on 4,160 consumers found that U.K. consumers purchased 1.6m new devices every month over the last year, with access to 5.4 different digital devices, i.e., 8% higher than 2020. The increasing popularity has led the government and many market players to invest in wearable healthcare to gain maximum benefits and attract more consumers. 

The tracking and data aggregating use of smartwatches such as the iWatch could benefit government agencies trying to collect and analyze healthcare data quickly from the field. For instance, Utah utilizes a Google Glass app that offers real-time public transit information to users wearing the device. There will be many apps to connect to citizens and governments to strengthen communities in the future, and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Moreover, government support through funding, investments, and other initiatives boost consumers' adoption of wearable healthcare devices.

  • The government of Canada is expected to invest up to USD 950 million within the Innovation Superclusters Initiative.
  • Digital India is an initiative with a vision of the transformation of India into a digitally empowered one. The preference of Indians towards digitalization was observed by the rise in smartphone subscribers from 270 million in 2016 to an estimated 890 million smartphone subscribers in 2022.

The government's plan to capture demand in new tech devices such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, drones, AR and VR, and Internet of Things products will help emerging countries such as China, Japan, and India become global manufacturing hubs in the long term. India's wearable healthcare devices market accounted for USD 1106.37 million in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.25%.

Wearable Healthcare Devices

Transforming Clinical Trials Through Wearables

A comprehensive understanding of the effects of a drug or medical device in the clinical trial process is of utmost importance to pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Wearables create an opportunity to generate and leverage large amounts of data sets, providing insights into treatment, health monitoring, and efficacy.

Wearables have different clinical trial applications, from the early detection of adverse events to tracking quality of life. Growing data collection past the scope of a clinical touchpoint along with advanced analytics and AI (artificial intelligence) can exhibit effects that may not have been noticed earlier.

Additionally, wearable clinical trial experience for the participants can lower the duration and frequency of clinic visits. Overall, the use of wearables in clinical trials will improve the effectiveness of the prosecution and develop deeper insights. Traditional fitness trackers have made a move into the FDA-approved monitoring space, and it has made wearable use in clinical trials easier and accessible, particularly for patients.

In the future, intelligent and efficient drug development is expected to lead. Also, many established pharmaceutical and medical device companies will leverage the breadth of data that wearable sensors provide to achieve real-time patient insights during clinical trials. As per our analysis, about 70% of clinical trials will include wearables by 2025.

The wearable technology market has over 4K+ startups that manufacture wearable devices for fitness tracking, including companies offering fitness bands, wellness devices for sleep monitoring, mental wellness, and posture correction. With overall funding of USD 18.1B in about 1.7K+ companies, wearable devices are one of the most dynamic sectors for investors. Also, approximately one-third of the budget has been raised in the last three years.

By the number of investments, Plug and Play Tech Center, HAX, MassChallenge, Startupbootcamp, and Techstars are amongst the active investors in this field. Diabetes monitoring devices, smartwatches, smart glasses, head-mounted displays, and fitness trackers/activity monitors attract significant funding.

Figure: MedTech devices in the categories of wearables, biosensors, remote patient monitoring, point-of-care and diagnostic tools are in higher demand. Below is the list of 12 impressive medical device startups at different levels of their journey:

Company Name

Category

Founded Year

Total Funding

Synchron

Brain Computer Interface

2016

USD 50,000,000

BiVacor

Artificial Heart

2008

USD 22,000,000

TytoCare

Diagnostics at Home

2012

USD 156,700,000

InsighTec

Incisionless Surgery

1999

USD 632,900,000

ReperioHealth

Diagnostics at Home

2020

USD 6,000,000

CMRSurgical

Surgical Robot

2014

USD 974,700,000

ZygoFix

Spinal Implants

2017

USD 10,700,000

Hemotune

Magnetic Blood Purification

2016

USD 2,100,000

LightPoint Medical

Targeted Cancer Surgery

2012

USD 33,400,000

Puzzle Medical Devices

Hemodynamic Support

2018

Undisclosed

TracInnovations

Motion Tracking

2015

Undisclosed

Neurent Medical

Rhinitis Treatment

2014

USD 35,800,000

The Rise in Consumer Health Consciousness and Employee Wellness

The current global medical device market is characterized by mass-market glucose monitors to high-end diagnostic imaging equipment. Amongst wearable, demand for gadgets such as fitness trackers and heart rate monitors is expected to surge, especially in the Asian market. 

Market players spanning from U.S.-based Fitbit and Jawbone, Spain's Nuubo to China's Xiaomi, Japan's Omron indicates the highest competition in this field owing to rising attention to health and fitness among consumers and corporations. The growing participation of sportswear giants Adidas and Nike has rapidly expanded their footprints in the region. Also, Xiaomi's Mi Band, Huawei's G.T. range, and Samsung and Google's co-developed Wear O.S. 3 create new retail venues for smart sports wearables.

Moreover, novel health-oriented device launches are also peppering the market worldwide. For instance, In India, a Dubai-based company named Tupelo has introduced MYMO. This fitness tracker rewards consumers points when they complete activity goals, e.g., buying groceries. Across the globe, sales of intelligent mattresses along with sensors to screen for breathing rates, snoring, and pressure points are on the rise.

Corporations in the United States, Canada, and Europe have already incorporated fitness trackers into their corporate wellness programs, and Asian healthcare outlets and region's companies are likely to follow. Other wearable solutions such as the posture sensors' Darma', 'Upright,' and 'Prana' are also expected to appeal to the rising number of Asian office employees and new mothers.

Current healthcare practices worldwide have access to several wearable medical devices that can help manage aging, diabetes, heart disease, and fertility issues. Monitors in these devices collect and transmit data on users' vital signs, including blood pressure and respiratory rates. On the other hand, skin patches contain electric signals from the brain and heart to measure glucose and position and monitor patient and provider movements. 

However, there is plenty of room for growth. For example, as per the data concluded from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimations, around USD 700 million were poured into digital health care venture funding in China in 2014 to support the development of e-commerce, disease management, and online physician-patient communication services. From our analysis, the market for wearable healthcare devices in China will expand from USD 907.66 million in 2017 to USD 2839.96 million in 2029.

Opportunities for Western Companies in the Asian Market

Asian device manufacturers are getting in on the game by introducing novel devices while the wearable device revolution traces its origins to American tech companies. For instance, a Tokyo-and California-based Company named Triple W is working on a wearable that informs patients when to urinate. This may appeal to Japanese consumers, where the adult diaper market is estimated to surpass the baby diaper market by 2023, owing to a large base geriatric population.

Asian medical device companies struggle to meet the changing regulatory requirements. With specific regulations, wearable devices face additional product safety (in cases of burns, electric shocks, or difficulty in transmitting electric signals), environmental requirements, post-market surveillance, and reimbursement issues. Thus, there is a need for extensive clinical studies to back up the medical claims specified by wearable devices.

The playing field for Asia's wearable medical devices market is becoming more crowded and complicated simultaneously. Therefore, in order to compete efficiently, the U.S. and European companies can leverage technology to develop personalized devices. 

Wearable device manufacturers can create smarter wearables by tailoring their features specifically for different market end-use segments, such as the elderly or young diabetic population. Companies may also consider partnerships with giant corporations and international conglomerates, healthcare practices, and retailers for increased market reach. While the market for wearable healthcare devices is highly competitive, it remains fluid and rising field of captivating opportunities during the forecast period of 2020–2029.

Adapting to COVID-19 Challenges

The COVID-19 has severely impacted the healthcare industry in terms of care pathways. High-risk populations include the elderly and people with a weakened immune system who visit physicians regularly. This has increased the need for remote monitoring solutions and alternatives for in-person visits.

Thus, wearables have created an opportunity to support the seamless amalgamation of telemedicine at home. The capability of wearables to real-time monitor patients' health information through IoT technology has enabled better insights to providers without diagnosing the patient in person.

For instance, Fitbit (Alphabet Inc.) publicly stated that its wearable device detected approximately 50% of COVID-19 cases a day before participants reported symptoms. If the coronavirus cases can be detected early, it will aid in protecting public safety and limiting the spread. Thus, the use of wearables to identify and track COVID-19 symptoms is proven revolutionary to fight disease outbreaks.

Long-term patient and provider buy-in to wearables will be about ease of use and recognition of added value. Usually, providers are overburdened with data that doesn't fit in their workflow; it leads to a lack of guidance on the use of wearables among patients. This highlights the importance of advanced analytics to help providers and patients understand the data.

In April, 43.5% of primary care visits were provided via telemedicine/apps/remote patient monitoring solutions, versus 0.1% in February. On-going product developments and research in the smart wearable space are expected to address these COVID-19 challenges shortly.

Wearable Healthcare Devices Market: Potential Risks and Scope 

Wearable technologies offer easy access for consumer use and real-time data for physicians to analyze. From Dexcom's new continuous glucose monitoring systems to Apple Watch's EKG capabilities, wearable tech has vast applications in the healthcare field. The recent spread of COVID-19, uninterrupted consumer demand owing to growing focus on health and fitness, rising attention of significant market players to emerging markets, and technological trends altogether has initiated changes in the wearable industry, leading to greater adoption and higher competition in the market.

The wearable healthcare device market can stay relevant and grow in the healthcare industry; however, it must meet specific conditions as healthcare is a highly regulated sector and a little slow to adopt new technologies. Also, challenges associated with the design trade-offs, better quality sensors, size, power, computation algorithms, and data security need to be addressed as soon as possible for the clinical utility of these wearable devices.

With negligible to low COVID-19 impact on this market, we can foresee more and more adoption of wearables as it has permitted an unmatched level of operability for vital industries, including healthcare.


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