Health Technology

Today there is a revolution going on in the world, which is not yet very visible. In the near future, we should think that it will have a direct impact on us. We are talking about healthcare and the penetration of mobile technologies into this sphere.

PwC recently conducted a survey to assess the current state of health care in the world, as a result of which the majority of respondents noted the paramount importance of easy access to medical services, as well as the ability to monitor their own health.

This was not the first survey of its kind, and it seems that healthcare around the world is gradually approaching the stage that will be followed by the transition to a patient-centered, instrumental healthcare model. This transition is already taking place gradually, including in our country, and is related to the so-called eHealth (a common term for eHealth).

Maybe many people have already heard about telemedicine, electronic medical records, remote medical records, and some have already seen it in action. But this is only a small part of what can be used in healthcare. Let’s talk about a relatively new branch of eHealth, called mobile health care (mHealth).

mHealth market: its division and development

Mobile health is the term for the use of mobile devices and wireless technologies for medical care and healthy lifestyles.

The most familiar example of mHealth technology for many people is the mobile phone and tablet programs related to physical fitness (e.g., weight) or fitness. When I think about mHealth, I think about its functionality in two ways: the use of mobile technologies by health care providers to improve health care and the use of these technologies by patients to control their own health.

Today, mHealth are two major directions that develop in parallel, with different speeds, and have a mutual impact on each other. The first one is technologies, devices, applications and services for treatment and care of patients, the second one is systems and devices designed to control the observance of a healthy lifestyle (wellness) and fitness (fitness).

You will say that the second direction has very little to do with medicine and health care and you will be right, but in mHealth there is a gradual rapprochement or rather a merger of these directions. Therefore, it will be more correct to speak not about health care or medicine, but about ensuring human health in all senses using mobile and not only technologies.

Healthy lifestyle devices

The market for fitness and healthy lifestyle devices and applications is developing much faster today (see box) than the second direction of mHealth. This is due, not least, to the fact that the healthcare industry is very conservative – new products and services appear in it only after numerous trials, clinical trials and approvals from various agencies.

Fitness devices do not need to do this, and they find their way to the consumer more quickly. According to a survey conducted by Accenture, 43% of global consumers want to buy a physical activity and fitness monitoring device. The list of products in this category includes:

  • Various kinds of physical activity trackers (bracelets, smart clothes, headphones, glasses, etc.);
  • Sports watches;
  • Wearable sensors, pulse meters;
  • Applications for these devices and independent applications for monitoring and managing one’s own physical condition

This market is very mobile, new devices appear all the time, there are no clear leaders yet, although we can hear the heavy giants of the electronic industry, which one after another began to produce products in this category.

Note that the wearable device industry may shift from bracelet trackers, which are so popular in 2014, to health sensors that will be fully embedded in or on the human body in 2018, according to a report by PSFK Labs and the magazine iQ, which oversees Intel.

In 2015, they predict that the functions of wearable devices will expand and the transfer of information for medical purposes and behavioral changes will be peculiar to clothing, and bracelets will be used for communications, verification of passwords and display of health data using an “emotional mirror”.

Ultimately, the communication and monitoring functions will be transferred to glasses, the report says, and in 2018 almost all functions will be implanted.

Wearable technologies (Wearable technologies)

The market of wearable technologies would not be quite right to refer to mHealth, but it is very closely related to the sphere of devices to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and very often it is simply impossible to understand where this or that device belongs. The list of products in this category includes:

  • Smart watches and glasses;
  • 3D motion trackers (basketball shot tracker, shock monitoring systems for American football, etc.);
  • Wearable cameras

“Smart” wearable gadgets have existed for a long time, but it is now that the corresponding segment is developing rapidly. According to forecasts of Deloitte, this year around the world will be sold about 10 million computerized glasses, smart watches and various fitness trackers.

At the same time, only “smart” watches will be sold about 2 million pieces. According to research company Juniper Research, the market for smart wearable devices will reach USD 19 billion in 5 years.

Devices for health monitoring, diagnosis and patient care

As noted above, this sector is not as rapidly developing as the fitness systems sector. But nevertheless, the market for mobile monitoring and diagnostics in 2012 was already equal to 650 million USD, according to the report of Transparency Market Research. According to the research company, this market will grow at a rate of 43.3% per year from 2013 to 2019 and will amount to 8 billion USD in 2019. This category of mHealth includes:

  • Monitoring systems: heart, pressure, glucose, brain, sleep, etc;
  • Multiparameter monitoring systems;
  • Systems of remote interaction with a doctor;
  • Wearable, implantable, and swallowable sensors of various vital signs;
  • Diagnostic and rapid analysis systems (blood, saliva, urine, breathing, etc.);
  • Systems for the care of the elderly, the chronically ill and children;
  • Applications for health monitoring, drug use control, treatment planning, training systems, etc.

It is in this direction that the future success of mHealth is laid down, and it is with it that analysts associate the reformatting of the medical and healthcare industry, as well as the huge growth of income of market participants.

Investments in mHealth

Growing consumer demand for digital medical technologies, backed by the targeted policies of many countries to improve national health and promote healthy lifestyles, has led to unprecedented entrepreneurial activity.

Investors rushed into a new, promising industry (although this does not apply to Russia). Last year, investments in digital medical companies totalled USD 712 million in the US alone, according to a StartUp Health report. Investments in this area continued to grow in 2014, with two areas showing a particularly sharp jump upwards.

Investments in solutions related to the inclusion of patients in the treatment process increased by 410%, the second most important being the market for sensory systems and monitoring of vital signs, in which investments increased by 243%. Although the number of transactions in the first quarter of this year was less than in 2013, their total volume more than doubled and amounted to 1.35 billion USD (last year – 599 million USD). Again, the data is for the US.

This is the fastest-growing segment in terms of attracting external investments: according to various estimates, investments in it account for up to 10% of the total volume of venture capital transactions. The number of startups focused on online content and medical services is increasing. Another promising area is the development of various devices and applications for monitoring health indicators.

Today, more and more new products are appearing on the market in this area, we are constantly hearing about the technologies that used to seem fantastic. The American company iRythm has released a “patch” Zio, which works as a wearable sensor used to monitor cardiac arrhythmias, and operates without charge for up to two consecutive weeks.

Scientists at Stanford University have created a wireless pacemaker the size of a grain of rice. A new health monitoring system called Cue is now available that allows you to take samples from your body and check five key health and lifestyle indicators in minutes.

And the number of mobile medical and fitness applications for different platforms is now approaching 2 million.

ZIFRES AND FACTS

Consumer Electronics Association recently published a report with Park Associates, which indicates that the market for wellness products (wellness and fitness) generated about USD 3.3 billion in 2013 and will grow to more than USD 8 billion by 2018. Device manufacturers sold more than 40 million products for this market in 2013 and this figure will grow to 70 million by 2018.

According to ABI Research, about 90 million wearable devices used for healthcare and fitness (mainly physical activity trackers of various kinds) will be sold in 2014. In addition, the so-called “smart clothes” of the same mHealth category will also make a significant contribution to the market growth. The estimated sales of such products in 2013 were 30,000, and in 2014 – 720,000 and 1 million in 2015.

Fitness trackers worn on the wrist have become the most popular devices – according to the Canalys analytical firm, about 17 million of such devices will be sold in 2014. The best selling bracelet in this category is Fitbit (58% market share), mainly because the company launched its Flex and Force products in May and October 2013, respectively.

Analysts believe (if the prediction of PSFK Labs and iO by Intel is accurate) that such devices will cease to be so popular over the next 5 years. They predict that future wearable devices will shift from a bracelet form factor to health sensors that will be placed in or on the user’s body by 2018.

Almost all devices in this category come with their own mobile app, which provides data processing and visualization. However, profits from this type of product are minimal, as applications are usually downloaded free of charge.

According to analysts of research company Research and Markets, “the global market of mHealth-applications in 2013 is estimated at 6.6 billion USD, and it is expected that in 2018 it will reach the level of 20.7 billion USD. That is, on average, it will increase by 25.5% per year. The main income will come from applications for medical devices, the report says, their share in 2013 was about 80%.