FitBit, Apple Watch, Google Glass. Remember the good old days when insulin pumps were a hot new thing? Well they aren't anymore, but wearable medical devices are in fact the hot new thing, to the tune of an upstart industry that is now hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars. Consider this article your brief introduction to the Wearable Medical Device industry.
Medical devices have always reserved a big large, robust, and expensive place in the national consciousness. Thinking about medical devices pushes thoughts immediately to the hospital, with it's MRI machines and CAT scans. No longer! Hospitals will always house these big machines, but when it comes to patient monitoring, the expensive hospital bed is starting to see some competition, here's where that competition is coming from:
Preventative devices. These devices have been in the market for quite some time, think FitBit and now the Apple Watch. Usually worn around the wrist or ankle, these devices commonly connect to a smartphone, and offer all of us the ability to prevent future health problems.
Monitoring devices. While preventative devices do monitor future patients, they don't monitor in the sense of delivering data to someone other than the individual wearing them. Monitoring devices, however, do. These are usually used as a patient leaves the hospital or medical facility, or is in a transition state of leaving. Whether it be clothes that can measure heart rates, or straps that send swelling information back to doctors via Bluetooth technology, monitoring devices are employed by healthcare providers after a patient has already been hospitalized or treated. Many times, it can be as simple as a monitor attached to a patient's wrist who is in a nursing home, letting caregivers know when blood sugar is getting too low.
Communication devices. Finally, we have communication devices. These devices are slowly moving past the "I'm fallen and I can't get up," to "somethings wrong, please help me out, doc." The fundamental goal of these devices is to recognize that something is wrong with an individual, and communicate to the necessary parties that something is wrong. Nurse call buttons are the old-form of these devices. The new forms are wearable devices that monitor a patients vitals for doctors.
The current state of wearable medical devices is adolescence. We don't quite know what the future holds, specifically with regards to where development will come from. Traditionally, large tech corporations such as Apple and Google have stayed away from the medical device industry. But with connectivity and sensors being the two most limiting but focused-on factors in medical device research, expect Silicon Valley to move into hospitals even more in the coming years.