Over the last several years, consumer uptake of retail health trackers has climbed substantially, but their use by professionals in healthcare delivery has lagged behind.
This state of affairs could change over the next few years, however. A new analysis from Juniper Research predicts that such trackers will go from optional to ‘must have’ in the provision of patient care, driving the market for such devices to $20 billion per year by 2023. Not only that, a new breed of connected hearing aids (also known as ‘hearables’) should generate revenues of over $40 billion per year by 2022, Juniper projects.
The rapid market expansion will take place in part because medical practitioners and regulators will develop greater confidence as to the accuracy of the sensors that lie at the heart of these devices. Historically, many clinicians have (somewhat justifiably) written initial waves of these devices off as little more than toys.
As they develop confidence in the reliability and validity of their measurement capabilities, though, medical institutions will invest heavily in wearables. In fact, the research firm forecasts 5 million individuals will have some aspect of their health monitored remotely by healthcare providers within four years. Meanwhile, health insurance providers should begin buying data produced by such devices, with services of this nature generating $855 million annually by 2023.
With these consumer tools in place, providers will deploy AI-enabled software analytics to sift through the new data they generate, Juniper says. These analyses will make it possible to identify consumers at risk of worsening health and depending on how far we’ve gotten with genomic data, perhaps create precision treatments for emerging chronic conditions.
All this being said, medical organizations, healthcare providers and other stakeholders will need to be careful about how and for where they collect the data generated by wearables. Strategies like AI-based software analytics could result in a consumer backlash if the security of anonymized patient data is not protected adequately.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that partnerships already forming up to harvest this data may need to mature for a while before they will seem completely trustworthy. For example, an agreement struck between Google and Fitbit last spring aimed at weaving together EMR data, wearables data and other patient information has barely gotten off the ground, it could be a while before medical organizations learn to trust in any particular group of partners.