Innovation in healthcare wearables continues to drive market growth.
Consumers are adopting wearables at a fast pace, with improving health as their primary motivator for buying devices, according to the 2016 Pricewaterhouse Cooper Consumer Intelligence Series that focuses on wearables. The study, which surveyed 1,000 consumers in March 2016, found that health organizations, including doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies, are the most trusted when referring wearables to their customers. This provides a big opportunity for healthcare organizations to partner with technology companies to make unique connections with consumers.
The wearable technology market grew 29% in 2016, with 101.9 million units sold, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. The organization projects that the wearable market will reach more than 213 billion units sold by 2020. The most popular units continue to be wristbands and watch-like devices, though clothing and eyewear are gaining traction.
"Watches and bands are and always will be popular, but the market will clearly benefit from the emergence of additional form factors, like clothing and eyewear, that will deliver new capabilities and experiences,” says Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Eyewear has a clear focus on the enterprise as it stands to complement or replace existing computing devices, particularly for workers in the field or on the factory floor. Meanwhile, clothing will take aim at the consumer, offering the ability to capture new forms of descriptive and prescriptive data."
Wearables continue to evolve as virtual reality applications provide experience-based applications for clinicians and patients. Technology companies such as Samsung Electronics are leading the way in using wearables to find healthcare solutions. The company announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show that it is switching its focus from robots to wearable healthcare technology. The virtual reality market is predicted to increase eight times by 2020, with healthcare seeing the biggest gains, according to the Virtual Reality Market Hardware Global Analysis released in January 2017.
The clinical application of wearable technology is evolving, as technology companies partner with healthcare organizations with the goal of solving some of healthcare’s biggest problems. Here are some of the latest healthcare wearable technology aimed to help patients and clinicians make better decisions.
The LIVE by EarlySense is a remote monitoring device that monitors sleep and vital statistics for bedridden patients. The piezoelectric sensor disk plugs into an outlet and slides under a patient’s mattress. Real time patient vitals can be monitored through a mobile application, which can be supervised by caregivers and clinicians. The device, which was only available in hospitals, was made available to consumers in January 2017. Clinical studies found that the device is 92.5% accurate when detecting sleep patterns, heart rate, breathing, movement, and other potential stressors. A monthly subscription is required to monitor the device.
The Rapael Smart Glove has an exoskeletal design that assists people who have had strokes, and other patients with neurological and musculoskeletal injuries regain mobility in their hands. Using a Bluetooth sensor, the glove measures the patient’s motion through a 30-minute exercise, and creates an exercise schedule based on the patient’s needs. The glove includes game software allowing patients to simulate playing ping pong, chopping food and catching a baseball, rewarding points to encourage engagement.
A version of the Rapael Smart Glove has been available in hospitals since 2014, but a new home edition is now available for patients who need help with mobility. The glove is available to patients to rent for $99 and is reimbursable through many health plans.
Another new product from Neofect, the Rapael Smart Board assists patients with shoulder and elbow mobility. Using game-based technology, the device creates exercises based on a patient’s ability and performance.
The device includes a board with a hand grip, and allows patients to increase conditional exploration, point-to-point reaching, and shape drawing through exercise. The real-time assessment of patient data includes range, speed, smoothness and harmony of motion. The Smart Board will be available for clinical use in April 2017.
Painless and accurate glucose monitoring has been the goal of many health technology companies. The watch-like K’Track Glucose monitor aims to be the solution for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes by using technology that uses micro needles to collect and analyze fluid right below the skin surface. The needles are less than 0.5 mm. The micro needles are a part of a replaceable cartridge that lasts 30 days, but can take unlimited readings in the time period.
Users push a button on the device to check their glucose levels, and it takes a minute for results to display on the face of the device. Results of the day can also be displayed on the device, and all results over time are synced to a mobile app. The device will be available to purchase later this year.
The Fever Scout is a flexible patch that can track a user’s temperature over time and share it with clinicians or caregivers. The remote monitoring device can be placed near the user’s armpit, and smartphone alerts can let caregivers know if there’s a fever or spike in temperature. The continuous temperature monitoring device can be used for babies and young children, post-operative patients, cancer patients, and seniors.
Fever Scout syncs with a smartphone app when it’s within 25 feet to 30 feet of the phone. With a signal amplifier, the device can monitor a user’s temperature up to 130 feet away.
The device will be available to purchase in mid-February 2017.
AccendoWave has partnered with Samsung to create a new concept in pain management-distraction. Users can wear any headband and/or ear buds (pictured above with InteraXon), and AccendoWave measures discomfort in the user's electroencephalography (EEG) system.
The device connects to a Samsung tablet, which generates content based on the user’s discomfort level. The content ranges from games, music and short videos, to longer clips and movies provided by DirectTV. The user’s pain level is continuously monitored through their brain waves, and users are prompted to rate the content and how it alleviates their pain.
During a six-month trial at a hospital system, 90% of users said they enjoyed using the AccendoWave, 81% said it helped them feel more comfortable, and 77% said it understood their discomfort. The pain distraction technology is currently being tested in other health systems across the country.
Virtual reality technology is giving medical school students the opportunity to be more hands-on when it comes to complex training. The Samsung Gear VR is not an exclusive medical device, but its technology is being used in medical schools to enhance simulated training environments.
The virtual reality headset has content that allows students to explore human anatomy, create trauma room simulations, surgical training and observation, and other modules that allow students to develop quick decision-making and get real-time feedback. The Samsung virtual reality headset is being used at the Miami Children’s Hospital, the Penn State Health Simulation Center, the University of California Davis School of Medicine and the University of Chicago, along with other institutions.
The Ava bracelet is an FDA-approved medical device that monitors a woman’s fertility and menstrual cycle. The device contains sensors that collect up to 3 million data points that correlate with the rise of reproductive hormones. These parameters include resting pulse rate, skin temperature, sleep, perfusion, bioimpedance, breathing and sleep.
The combination of the data points can predict 5.3 fertility dates within a woman’s cycle with 89% accuracy, according to clinical studies. Users only wear the device at night, and the data syncs with a mobile application. Ava’s creators hope that the device will take the place of ovulation strips and BBT thermometers that women currently use to track ovulation. The Ava bracelet has been on sale in the United States since 2015, and the company hopes to expand to Europe in early 2017.
The Omron Project Zero 2.0 is a watch-like device that promises to measure blood pressure, sleep and other physical activities with clinical accuracy. A prototype of the device was unveiled at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.
The device syncs with a mobile application, and has a rechargeable battery that last up to week, according to the manufacturer. Kellogg says that the device is currently being evaluated for FDA clearance.
Billed as a fitness shoe with a built-in computer, the Vivobarefoot will track vital signs of runners with hopes to reduce injury in the future. The shoe monitors real time speed, pace, cadence, foot landing, time on the ground, impact, asymmetry and toe engagement. The shoe’s creators hope to use this data for business and academic purposes to make running and walking more safe and efficient.
The shoe is being created through a partnership with Sensoria, a fitness garment company, and Vivobareboot, a running shoe company.
Two removable cores embedded in a thin 5 mm outsole connect to four pressure points in the foot. An accompanying mobile app houses all the data tracked during a run. The shoe is slated to be available to purchase later this year.