How sensors and wearables are adding a whole new meaning to remote patient monitoring

How sensors and wearables are adding a whole new meaning to remote patient monitoring Dr Nadia Tsao is a Senior Technology Analyst at IDTechEx where for the past 2 years she has been building the company's research in the life sciences. Prior to IDTechEx, Nadia was an Associate Consultant at Cambridge Healthcare Research, where she conducted market landscape analysis for pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology companies.

Traditional remote patient monitoring (RPM) is evolving at a rapid rate due to a number of external factors. We are seeing new market pressure coming from giants such as Apple, Google and Amazon looking to manoeuvre into the healthcare industry.

Recently, Amazon announced its “Haven” project, a joint healthcare venture with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to improve access to primary care, simplify insurance and make prescription drugs more affordable. With huge R&D budgets and a wealth of technology at their fingertips, their disruption potential is very high.

Changing population demographics are themselves sparking healthcare reforms. As the demographic shifts and results in ageing populations in both emerging and developing nations, the prevalence of chronic diseases will continue to rise and health systems are under pressure to change; prompting new ways to deliver healthcare. RPM is now being explored more seriously as a method of managing rising health costs due to chronic conditions.

New waves of RPM reform

With a finite number of clinicians and caregivers, it’s clear that smart technology will be used to ease the pressure on human resources. Wearables are an obvious method to monitor remote patients and deliver data to the relevant healthcare expert. At IDTechEx our analysts have tracked three waves of sensor and wearables development in RPM.

The first wave saw early sensors developed and used in healthcare including hearing aids and Holter monitors. The second wave brought sensors that were developed primarily in other industries but then made the jump into healthcare and wearable devices over time, such as the use of smartphones and smartwatches in health and fitness tracking.

The emerging third wave is far more targeted, with sensors ‘made for wearables’ and developed with key properties in mind like flexibility, comfort and low power usage. These are less commercially mature, but examples such as mobile cardiac telemetry and continuous glucose monitoring will see the strongest growth and relevance in the long term.

The benefits of RPM are far from remote

RPM leverages a range of technologies and services to allow for the monitoring of patients both inside and outside of conventional clinical settings. RPM can measure anything from medication tracking, temperature, movement and heart rate to blood pressure, glucose levels and oxygen levels. Applications of RPM are widespread, from monitoring and improving patient adherence, clinical trial monitoring and pre/post-op monitoring to more diverse applications such as monitoring diabetes, dementia, infertility and heart failure.

Clinical trials, real-world evidence and medical adherence will be major areas of focus for the pharma sector as organisations are realising RPM has a significant role to play

One of the primary benefits of RPM technology is that healthcare organisations are able to provide care to patients beyond regularly scheduled visits and typical opening hours. This reflects the industry-wide move toward decentralising care, easing the pressure on overstretched hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. Sensor-based wearable devices fit this style of care, they provide real-time patient medical data which, when processed effectively, allows resources to be efficiently allocated to provide individual care and improve patient outcomes.

Improving the quality of life for young and old

RPM promises to change the way healthcare is delivered with patients themselves directly benefiting. Sensors and wearables linked to smart devices improve communication between providers and patients. Effective monitoring leads to improved patient quality of life as they require fewer visits to healthcare services. Real-time tracking of patient health means any early health warnings can be detected early and the patient can quickly receive preventative care.

One of the most prominent markets for RPM technology is in the care of chronic diseases, most prevalent in the elderly population. According to the World Health Organisation, between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 will nearly double from 12% to 22%. This is partly why there is a disproportionate amount of emphasis on this population demographic when it comes to healthcare spending; long-term care is often required alongside strict medicine routines.

The future of RPM

There are immediate wins with in-home monitoring; chronic disease, pre/post-operative and post-discharge. In the wellness market, RPM of babies and the elderly will continue to grow. However, looking forward, wearable sensor technologies need to become less invasive and more invisible, a trend which is already tracking positively with technologies such as electronic skin patches.

More and more market players are starting to take note, which should drive this growth. Clinical trials, real-world evidence and medical adherence will be major areas of focus for the pharma sector as organisations are realising RPM has a significant role to play.

What drives the pace of change in RPM?

IDTechEx research shows there is a significant reason to believe that development in healthcare sensors and wearables will keep pace with these demographic changes. Our latest research shows that digital disruption of the healthcare sector will drive the medical wearables market to $19.7 billion by 2024.

The report, Remote Patient Monitoring 2019-2029, provides examples of RPM technologies including electronic skin patches, smart mattresses, smart shirts, smartwatches, connected inhalers and digital pills. This report cuts across the expert analysis of wearable technology, wearable sensors, electronic textiles, electronic skin patches and digital health, to bring to healthcare providers the most relevant insights on the exciting innovations in RPM.

Editor’s note: Find out more about best practice on the use of wearables and sensors in continuous monitoring of individuals and point-of-care diagnostics at the inaugural Healthcare Sensor Innovations 2019 conference. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

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