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Can MedTech Keep Up with Consumers’ Great Expectations?

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 8:44am
Melissa Barnes, Associate Editor

Consumer medical technology is one of the broadest medical device sectors with the most opportunity. It holds the most demand and promise for newcomers and long-time players alike, but if medical device makers do not jump on this opportunity fully, the sector may be lost to other competitors.

Wireless technology has made leaps and bounds as far as creating usable and successful products for the consumer, but medical device makers have yet to truly take advantage of current technologies to gain a firm foothold. However, several new devices have shown promise.

The device makers that garner the best success are those who integrate cutting edge wireless technology to create wearable devices currently trending in the consumer market. The consumer is a much different kind of customer than the medical practitioner, so device manufacturers must meet a different set of demands.

The Demand for Integrated Wireless
According to IMS Research, wireless capable devices make up a mere five percent of the consumer medtech market. Yet, when looking at consumer devices on a whole, wireless products make up the majority. Clearly, an important demand has yet to be met by the medical industry. Consumers have come to embrace and expect their devices to seamlessly connect with their mobile devices and smart technologies, so it follows that they would expect the same of their health devices.

MobileHelp's device is the industry's only dual mobile PERS system that integrates a cellular home base station and mobile device.CES offered some exciting medical mobile devices this year, particularly from MobileHelp. The company is currently offering the industry’s only dual mobile PERS (M-PERS) system that integrates a cellular home base station and mobile device. The Fall Button detects falls in senior patients and provides access to an emergency protection system, both at home and away.

The Wellness Connected suite of wireless monitoring systems from A&D Medical was also unveiled at this year’s CES. The utilization of Bluetooth Smart technology makes for a promising product offering through synced apps and cloud services that allow consumers to track and manage their own health.

One of the more surprising devices to join the wireless consumer medtech world was Google’s contact lens glucose monitor. The contact lens integrates an ultra-mini glucose sensor and wireless transmitter that keeps track of a diabetic’s insulin levels. At the core of the device’s success is its combination of the main driving forces in consumer medtech demands: minimally invasive, small, user-friendly technology.

Google's contact lens glucose monitor integrates an ultra-mini glucose sensor and wireless transmitter that keeps track of a diabetic's insulin levels.Though the prototype is still five years away from market launch, Google’s famed X Lab has proven itself capable of cranking out novel technology that is sure to infiltrate the consumer lifestyle. Even though Google is new to the medical device market, they are successful at providing cutting-edge, wireless, and wearable technologies that take consumers by storm.

"There are a lot of people who have big promises," said Dr. Christopher Wilson, CEO of NovioSense. "It's just a question of who gets to market with something that really works first."

The Demand for Wearable Monitoring
The best approach to a successful application of consumer medtech devices is one that bridges the gap between doctors and patients through offering home healthcare monitoring and management.

Devices that enable better postoperative management help both patients and practitioners ensure successful recovery and management of chronic conditions. With opioid use creating a growing cause of concern among those who experience chronic and acute pain, alternative pain therapy measures are in high demand.

The ON-Q Pain Relief System is a device that offers effective pain management in lieu of traditional devices.The ON-Q Pain Relief System is a device that offers effective pain management in lieu of traditional narcotics. The disposable pump delivers a continuous infusion of local anesthetic via catheter that is inserted near the surgical site, in close proximity to the nerves involved with the particular pain. The portable pump then goes home with the patient as a wearable system that can either be clipped to the patient’s clothing or placed in a carrying case. The device delivers a steady flow of local anesthetic, offering the patient up to five days of targeted pain relief.

Other medical devices taking advantage of the influx in consumer wearable technologies are meeting the needs of consumers who wish to track their health through wellness and fitness trackers, equipped with sensors to track the wearer’s vitals. Once again, the most successful contenders are those that offer Bluetooth synchronization that allow consumers to truly integrate the device into their daily lives. Several of these devices were seen at this year’s CES.

“We saw a slew of devices intended for spot measurement as well as ongoing measurement and recording, said Frost & Sullivan’s Avni Rambhia, Digital Media Industry Manager and Phillip Burrell, Connected Health Research Analyst.

“There are also stand-alone self-monitoring apps and self-diagnostic apps growing in number for tablets and smart phones,” said Rambhia and Burrell.

Conclusion
One of the greatest expectations of consumer medtech is that of security. On the one hand, there is the risk of potential data loss if the device is stolen, lost, or hacked.

“How the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act applies to devices provided to patients by clinics is still a somewhat grey area, although progress is expected in resolving this uncertainty over the next few years,” says Rambhia.

To summarize, the call for more medtech technology can only be achieved when the consumer’s demands and needs are fully met at every level of development, from the R&D stage through to market.

“Human Factors Engineering considers the user, the technology, and the environment together as a system, and the interaction of each system component throughout product development,” says Ashley Russell, Principal Human Factors Engineer at Cambridge Consultants.

“On one side, the users have higher expectations with how their medical devices should function…on the other side, the developers need to increase their rigor around designing to mitigate use-related risk…this ultimately ensures a best of both worlds scenario – safety and usability – for consumers,” concludes Russell.

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