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The wearable market takes on pace – especially in the healthcare and medical devices space. Opportunities to improve health through “always on” diagnosis, constant monitoring of health indicators for preventive or therapeutic reasons with possibilities of instant alarming the patient, doctors or family and friends, and even direct therapeutic features are just too promising. Experts predict a multi-billion USD market to become reality in the upcoming years. Medical wearables can be basically grouped into two major categories: devices used in diagnostics and devices used in medical treatments.

1. Wearables supporting health monitoring and rehabilitation

Wearables supporting health monitoring and rehabilitation are already wide-spread: bio-sensors are able to track heart beats (ECG), stress through skin reactions (electrodermal activity), brain activities (EEG), respiration, sleep quality, body temperature, steps, calory burn, plunges – you name it. This can be done through wrist bands, watches, smart glasses, plasters, smart tattoos, or devices through devices you can wear around your waist or torso. Intelligent textiles like smart suits or even smart bras might also become serious business in the near future – who knows?

One big bet the big players are keen to win is around wearables that are able to facilitate glocuse monitoring through minimal or non-invasive wearables that leverage electricity or ultra-sounds. Some insiders say Google invests billion USD in research in glucose monitoring, and also Apple as well as the big medical device players are in the game as well. The market would be massive not only because of the growing number of diabetes patients, but also as this might lower the barrier to use these devices as soon as they might become affordable, so that the use case could broaden up for diets as well.

Bio-sensors a bit apart from what you would classically associated with wearables – but too fascinating not to mention here – are self-implantable devices that work under the skin and smart pills that contain technology to monitor glucose or heart rates at high precision.

Opportunities for Collaborative Care

All these diagnostics wearables can improve remote monitoring and home healthcare, but what is even more, they also enable to include friends and family to support therapies – when this is wished by the patient. For example, they can be alerted in real time on health risk before the patient status gets critical. Or, they can participate in a more healthy life style of the patient through gamification elements. As the data can be aggregated and anonymized with in-memory technology, there are new opportunities for collaborative research between life sciences companies, clinicians and other researchers enabling multi-disciplinary approaches for personalized as well as evidence-based medicine.

2. Wearables supporting therapies and physicians

The second big part of medical wearables is around therapies and supporting physicians. This covers many traditional medical devices like pacemakers, voice modulators, and others. More recent example that are prominently present in the media are smart glasses supporting physicians during appointments with patients as well as during and after surgeries. Where will the future head to? I found one interesting blog that lists new ideas like wearables that are able to deliver acupressure to reduce pain, influence eye pressure, affect blood circulation micro and needle patches for acupuncture or drug delivery. There might be also opportunities to power up such new medical devices with solutions from SAP, e.g. mobile solutions in order to create tailored apps, or in-memory-technology in order to analyze data generated from the devices.

Which wearable medical device will be the next big breakthrough? This will heavily depend on their reliability, efficacy and acceptance by authorities, physicians and patients.

Would you like to read more about this? In this case, check out the following two blogs as well:

  1. Making Medical Wearables Work: Top 3 Traits to Keep in Mind
  2. Will Wearable Medical Devices Break Through? – Talking about Broad Acceptance and Privacy

What do you think about the issues discussed here? Continue the conversation in the comments below and on Twitter @Sap_Healthcare!

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