The growing market of wearable technologies is attracting a lot of interest in the consumer electronics and digital health arenas. Between tech-savvy consumers who want to more accurately monitor their health and rising healthcare costs, the shift to digital health and wearables is a natural outcome. Expertise and creativity could be the difference between a successful product and one collecting dust on a shelf. Here are some important considerations:
Recently people have been talking about the natural evolution of consumer wearables to include “medical grade” wearables and “ther-ables.” This conversation is happening as companies are thinking about how to broaden their markets, differentiate their offerings and improve value propositions. Many of the companies considering the jump to medical grade are currently selling products into the consumer fitness-tracking market. This market is lead by companies like Fitbit (2015, $1.8B revenue, 21.4M units sold) and players in the space are beginning view healthcare as an attractive adjacent market.
Life Science Washington (formerly the WBBA) recently hosted an event called “So You Want to Build an App?” where researchers and technology leaders shared their experiences with developing mobile apps aimed at improving health. The participants are all working on innovative ways to improve delivery of care and increase patient engagement.
Consumers are increasingly leveraging mobile-oriented solutions across a range of use cases. One such use case is digital healthcare. Digital health, which represents the convergence of connected health, quantified self, genomics, and core healthcare IT trends, is among the key phenomena driving the next cycle of transformation in the healthcare industry. Millennials are driving this fundamental change in healthcare and the Baby Boomers need it. Today, we rely on digital technology for information, communicating, purchasing, entertainment, and social-networking. Healthcare becomes an extension of this digital technology.
When granting regulatory approvals for medical devices, both IEC 62366 and the FDA have emphasized the importance of applying human factors and user-centered design activities to the development process to ensure medical device safety and improve usability. The development of mobile medical apps (MMAs) is no exception. Developers of an MMA aren’t just building another Angry Birds or Candy Crush app, they are building a medical device in the form of a mobile app that keeps up with a user’s health, perhaps even diagnosing symptoms and preparing users for unforeseen medical emergencies. Read the whole thing here.
In August, 2014, consulting firm, PriceWaterouse Coopers released a report “Digital accelerators for a new innovation era”. In it, the authors note, “Drug and device companies need the right mix of digital tools and processes to accelerate innovation, or they risk displacement and missed growth opportunities in a New Health Economy that is demanding technologies to support measurable, value-driven care.”
John Havard, CTO of Stratos, participated on the panel for “Growth Opportunities in Patient Compliance” at MEDevice San Diego on September 2nd. John and other panelists identified the need to improve medication adherence, both from patient-centric issues, but also from therapy and infrastructure perspectives.
Here at Stratos we’ve thought a lot about how to make digital health products and wearable devices more meaningful. While it's good to know how many steps I took and how many calories I ate today, it would be even better to get some direction on what to do with the data.
Three concerns that might jump out when companies start talking about developing medical apps: who the target user might be (physicians, patients, or consumers), the regulatory strategy (which might be no regulation at all, the strictest Class I, or somewhere in between), and how useful or useless they are (which is really the only thing that matters to anyone).