Just a few years ago, wearable healthcare devices were dismissed by many professionals as mere toys. Today, they are saving lives and providing access to an unprecedented amount of data. In other words, they are changing the entire healthcare industry, and research indicates that the trend is not going away.
According to a report published by The Insight Partners, a leading market research firm and provider of actionable intelligence, the global wearable healthcare market is expected to reach$23,310.9 million in 2025, up from just $6,231.7 in 2017.
The Insight Partners attributes the astonishing growth of the wearable healthcare market primarily to raising awareness regarding the importance of fitness, but other factors come into play as well, including the increase in chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and others.
At the moment, North America is the largest market for wearable healthcare devices. Europe accounts for the largest market share, but countries in Asia Pacific have a great potential for the growth of the worth of the wearable healthcare market as well.
“Geographically, North America and Europe are presently the leaders in the wearable medical devices market owing to the highly developed technology sector, the rapid pace of R&D activities, and the presence of several well-established service providers in these regions,” states The Insight Partners in its report.
The healthcare industry has been relying on various wearable healthcare devices for much longer than most consumers realize. The first wearable external pacemaker, for example, was produced in 1958, consisting of a small plastic box that had controls to permit the adjustment of pacing heart rate.
What makes modern wearable healthcare devices different are two things: their availability and their ability to communicate with the outside world. For less than $50, anyone can purchase a wearable fitness band capable of accurately recording basic health parameters such as heart rate, sleep quality, and physical activity and connect it to a smartphone or computer via NFC and Bluetooth.
The ability to keep an eye on basic health metrics is surprisingly useful. In 2016, a young woman was notified by her new Fitbit Surge that her heart rate had climbed from 84 beats per minute (bpm) to 210bpm—while she was sitting at her desk.If it hadn’t been for her fitness tracker, she would have been dead.
“As soon as I got to hospital, they hooked me on all these machines and did some blood tests,and they have found an issue with my heart,” she said. “The doctors said that if I hadn’t phoned for an ambulance when I did and if I wasn’t wearing my Fitbit to track my heart rate, I could of suffered a heart attack/cardiac arrest and could of died.”
Of course, one doesn’t have to be at risk of a heart attack to benefit from a wearable healthcare device. It’s a well-established fact that an unhealthy lifestyle is one of the biggest causes of premature death. What makes a lifestyle unhealthy? Poor diet and lack of exercise, primarily. Because wearable healthcare devices act as personal trainers and nudge their users toward making the right lifestyle choices, they help people live healthier lives.
The positive effect of wearable healthcare devices on the health of their users is great news for healthcare organizations because it translates into fewer hospital visits. What’s more, connected wearable healthcare devices generate a myriad of patient data for medical professionals to collect and analyze.
Hundreds of medical studies have used wearable healthcare devices to monitor patients during clinical trials, providing a more comprehensive picture of how an experimental drug or device affects patient health. There are now even wearables that can be used for monitoring the blood glucose levels in an individual.
One such device is being developed at the University of Waterloo, and it combines radar and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to detect changes in glucose levels without painful finger pricks. “We want to sense blood inside the body without actually having to sample any fluid. Our hope is this can be realized as a smartwatch to monitor glucose continuously,” said George Shaker, an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo.
In the future, it’s likely that the data generated by wearable healthcare devices will be transmitted in real-time to healthcare providers, allowing the healthcare industry to provide more accessible, affordable, and efficient care for patients worldwide.
Just like most police departments now rely on high-tech surveillance centers with interactive dashboards and real-time feeds from cameras, hospitals could monitor the status of thousands of at-risk patients to react before it’s too late.
Companies like Nokia are already working on noninvasive wearable sensory devices that would make this type of continuous health monitoring possible. “We believe in a world where you can move from reactive care to continuous monitoring and really move to preventive care,” said Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia.
While all medical devices take a long time to complete several stages of clinical trials, the most important thing is that the wearable healthcare revolution is already well underway. As long as wearable healthcare devices are developed with patients’ best interests in mind, the future is bright.
Wearable healthcare devices have the potential to completely change the way healthcare is provided and unlock the mysteries of many life-threatening diseases. Thanks to advances in wireless connectivity, material science, and microprocessors, wearable healthcare devices are becoming smaller, smarter, and more useful.
Already, they help people live healthier lives by providing them with insights about their own bodies and teaching them how to look after them. Experts predict the global wearable healthcare market to grow significantly in the next several years, and everything indicates that the best is yet to come.