Pharmaceutical companies are the driving force behind rapid growth in the mHealth wearable market; an estimated 97.6 million devices are expected to ship by 2021. The compound annual growth rate of mHealth is set to increase by 135 percent in the next five years, and the hope is that these mobile healthcare devices will provide quality care to patients and help providers make better decisions.
These healthcare statistics are from a recent study published by Tractica called, “Wearable Devices for Healthcare Markets.” The study covers current devices available, how they’re being used, and adoption timelines within the industry.
Some wearables are more familiar to us than others. For example, smart watches can track everything from heart rate to dietary habits, and fitness trackers are already being used to monitor patient activity levels. There are new technologies like wearable patches and delivery pods that are administering pain medication and management therapies, as well as a slew of other devices under review by the FDA.
The healthcare industry in particular has a lot to gain from mobile technology, such as the wearables just mentioned. Most healthcare providers have taken on more patients as a result of mandatory healthcare legislation, which means medical resources have thinned in some areas. Mobile technology provides doctors and insurances companies with assistance during this dramatic growth by automating, tracking, and administering basic care in some instances, without the need to go to the doctor’s office. It also gives doctors greater insight when following up with patients, to ensure treatment plans and therapies are as effective as they can be.
Similarly, patients have more freedom to go about their lives while tracking their health concerns via mobile.
Digital health solutions are focused on decreasing quality care costs and expanding patient services, but that goal is not without its own set of obstacles.
For one thing, mobile healthcare is still very much in its infancy, and early adopters are managing high costs with the prospect of more affordable solutions in the near future. Moreover, the FDA review process can be lengthy, sometimes taking as long as a year.
Patient challenges are even more unique. The generation that will benefit most from wearable technology in the midst of our fluctuating healthcare system is also a generation of less technically savvy patients. Tractica’s report suggests that elderly patients have a difficult time using the mobile devices because they’re less familiar with computers and smartphones. Educating patients about mobile healthcare is still too expensive and time consuming, so providers aren’t able to offer much of a solution yet.
The other major obstacle providers, insurance companies, and clinical trials must overcome involves aggregating and analyzing large amounts of data. In addition to storing and organizing this data, doctors have to become familiar with interpreting it, which means there’s a learning curve for them as well.
Despite these challenges, mHealth and wearable devices are predicted to make huge waves in the healthcare industry during the next five years—most likely out of necessity.