It seems as though there is no end to the devices that can connect to the Internet. Cars, fridges, toasts, lights, and even clothing can connect to the web to provide an even richer experience. Thanks to wearable medical technology, IoT devices can even help us live healthier lives and change the way patients and doctors interact with one another.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at wearable healthcare technology and how it will impact our lives and the industry as a whole.
What is Wearable Medical Technology?
Wearable technology in healthcare refers to electronic devices that consumers can wear to monitor or improve their health, like Fitbits or smartwatches. They collect information about users’ personal health and exercise and can even send health information to doctors to detect problems or keep an eye on a patient’s post-op status.
Examples and Features of Wearable Devices in the Healthcare Industry
Health wearables are growing in demand, especially after the pandemic. Insurers and technology companies alike are interested in the possibilities wearables can unlock. Some of the most popular devices include:
- Wearable Fitness trackers, like FitBits or smartwatches are equipped with sensors to track users’ physical activities and heart rate. They can provide health and fitness recommendations by syncing to smartphone apps.
- Smart Health Watches like the Apple Heart app can monitor heart rhythms and alert wearers when it detects something out of the norm. Apple’s Series 7 model comes with a blood oxygen saturation monitor, sleep-tracking capabilities, electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors, heart health monitoring, and even fall detection that will dial 911 if it detects that the wearer isn’t moving.
- Wearable ECG monitors can measure electrocardiograms or ECGs. A good example is the move ECG that can send ECG readings to the user’s doctor. It can detect atrial fibrillation, pace, distance, and elevation as well, so it can be used to track walking, running, swimming, and biking activities.
- Wearable blood pressure monitors are still new on the market. A tool like Heartguide can measure blood pressure and daily activities like steps taken or calories burned. It can hold 100 readings and transfer the information to a mobile app so users can share the data with their doctor.
- Biosensors refer to adhesive patches that collect patient data while they move, e.g., information about their heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. This can pick up preventable cardiac or respiratory arrest quickly and improve patient outcomes dramatically.
Trends in Wearable Health Technology
The wearables market is growing dramatically, and there have been many interesting new apps and devices hitting the healthcare market for consumers and patients alike. Here are just a few:
- Smart Helmets that monitor cyclists’ health. While there are many apps that measure steps and heart rates for walkers and runners, there haven’t been many devices that focus on cyclists. New capacitive coupling devices can measure the rhythm, calorie burn, route, pace, and stamina of cyclists. It can also play music and enable cyclists to make phone calls as an added bonus.
- Smart glasses emerged a few years ago with Google Glass. While Google Glass had a frosty reception, tech companies are looking at smart glasses again. Smart glasses are now equipped with AR, VR, camera, Bluetooth, headphones, facial recognition, audio recording, and many other functions…including health sensing.
- Smart rings are worn like regular jewelry, but they can be used to monitor health and even unlock cars and control household devices.
- In-ear devices (also known as hearables) can monitor blood pressure and track biological signals and stress levels using embedded microchips and smart sensors. They can link to smartphones via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
- Implantables are very interesting because they can monitor patients’ health from inside their bodies. Proteus developed sensor-containing pills that could monitor blood pressure. The patient would swallow the pill, and patients could wear external devices that monitor the data generated with ease. There’s also been speculation that we could soon develop smart tattoos that could monitor health without having to remember to bring your device with you.
Cost of Wearable Health Devices
So how much do these devices cost? Some estimates say that wearables will drive $60 billion in healthcare spending in 2023. Consumers, on the other hand, will only be willing to use wearable devices if they are free or lower than $100.
While the price of wearable devices has decreased considerably, the more sophisticated and feature-rich devices are still quite pricey. Fitbit Sense devices, which come with a 6-month Fitbit Premium and Calm subscription, cost around $299.95.
On the lower end of the spectrum, you could pick up a Fitbit Inspire 2 for just $99.95 dollars or a Fitbit Charge 4 for $149.95. Of course, if you want a super sophisticated and trendy smart bike like the Peloton, you’ll need to spend at least $1,195 plus $250 for delivery and setup.
But how much does it cost to develop a healthcare app that can be used with wearables? If you use an offshore team to keep your costs low, you may need to spend at least $26,000 on team costs alone per month. The average cost to build a complex healthcare app can run anywhere between $150,000 to $425,000 or more if you require third-party integrations.
As for how much you can charge for the app – it depends. A simple meditation app like Calm will cost $70 per year, while Fitbit Premium costs around $80 per year.
It’s also important to remember that healthcare apps can be subsidized by hospitals or insurers because they will ultimately reduce costs by reducing the need for staff and freeing up hospital beds. For insurers, they will improve the health of patients, which will reduce the number of claims issued.
Wearable medical technology will continue to become more popular. They can reduce costs, improve patient outcomes, reduce the strain on the healthcare industry and also make a lot of money for tech companies that produce popular apps.