Medtech trends: Why 2015 will be the year of wearable health technology


I'm at that age where I have to keep an eye on my blood pressure. My doctor wants me to check it twice a day. Predictably, I often forget to do it. A wearable blood pressure sensor developed by researchers in Korea would solve this problem, and then some, by providing continuous monitoring.

Blood pressure varies significantly throughout the day and it would be ideal to measure it multiple times, but prevailing technologies make that impractical. Not so with a monitor that simply adheres to the skin , such as the one developed by researchers from Seoul National University and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in Daejeon, which enables continuous monitoring without inconveniencing the user. The device is designed for clinical use and does not communicate with a smartphone or wearable device, but one can imagine that is coming.

Easy Rider wristwatch scene
What does Easy Rider have to do with wearables? Read on.

IHealth introduced an ambulatory blood pressure monitor earlier this year that connects to Android and iOS phones via Bluetooth 4.0. And an Indiegogo campaign was launched at the end of October to raise money to develop the H2, a wristband that is described as the "world's first wearable blood pressure monitor," which may be a slight exaggeration. That device also would sync with your smartphone.

Today's wearable devices can monitor vital signs such as heart rate and body temperature, sleep patterns, as well as any number of fitness-related activities. However, once the novelty factor wears off, consumers tend to send them to that place where old home exercise devices and obsolete cell phones live. A PwC report on wearable technology found that 33% of surveyed consumers who purchased a wearable device more than one year ago say they no longer use it or use it infrequently. So, why will 2015 be different?

Well, there's the Apple Watch. While the initial roll out may have limited health applications, it's almost a given that many will emerge as time goes by. The stylish design of the Watch and the Apple spell that bewitches consumers whenever the company comes out with a new product will make wearable tech ubiquitous.

While consumers have not yet embraced wearable health technology in large numbers, writes PwC in an associated report on health wearables , they are interested. "More than 80% of consumers said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make healthcare more convenient," write the authors. To make them adopters, however, the price to the consumer must come down, the privacy of health data must be ensured, and the devices must be intuitive to use.

"For wearables to help shape the New Health Economy, next generation devices will need to be interoperable, integrated, engaging, social, and outcomes-driven," said Vaughn Kauffman, principal, PwC Health Industries. "Wearable data can be used by insurers and employers to better manage health, wellness and healthcare costs, by pharmaceutical and life sciences companies to run more robust clinical trials, and by healthcare providers to capture data to support outcomes-based reimbursement. But it will be critical to address the consumer

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