Editor's Note

The Future is Wearable

The U.S. market for wearable health devices is poised to hit billions of dollars in just a few years, and HME sits at the center of this massive opportunity.

I regularly return to an axiom that always holds true in life: “What gets measured gets managed.” It holds true for your retirement savings. It holds true for the preventative maintenance on your car. It holds true for your business.

And, yes, that adage holds true for your health. And, like many things that we measure these days, we often measure our health with some kind of wearable device. It could be a watch with a pedometer that keeps track of the number of steps we take in a day. It could be a heart rate monitor that tells our phone how many calories we are likely burning while we’re working out. Or, it could be an app that lets us use our phone’s camera to scan a barcode on a bag salad to let us know how healthy that lunch really is once you add the dressing and croutons.

The value of this measurement lies in the fact that once you’ve started amassing a good bit of it, you can start to see trends. You can see that maybe you need to cut back on those carbs. You can judge whether or not your efforts to add more fiber to your diet are going to pass muster with your pulmonologist. You can get a reality check on exactly how strenuous last month’s early morning jogs really were. That trending can help you see if you’re achieving milestones, determine if you need to make changes.

And now, wearable health is coming to the world of home medical equipment. Well, to tell the truth, it’s actually been here for a little while now. We’ve already seen some very viable applications of viable health spring up in this industry. Some examples:

  • Glucometers that connect with smartphones to help diabetes patients better manage their disease and send data back to their physicians for the purposes of remote patient monitoring (RPM).
  • Smartphone apps that let respiratory patients monitor their portable oxygen concentrators’ battery life and other maintenance metrics.
  • Small, Bluetooth-connected sonograms that send smartphone alerts to tell urinary incontinence patients when their bladder has reached a predefined threshold and needs voiding.

In some cases, these devices and apps represent life-changing innovations for users — and there are more wearable health solutions on the way. For instance, January’s recent CES expo offered up a plethora of headline-grabbing, wearable health products and apps. The show featured everything from non-invasive, continuous blood glucose monitoring, to at-home fertility testing, to devices that monitor adult diapers for replacement.

The Opportunity

New product developments like these should be profoundly good news to HME providers because it represents an opportunity for them to establish themselves as experts in a truly massive marketplace with a dizzying array of products.

How big a market? Well, the size varies a bit depending on whose data you believe. In January 2019, Juniper Research reported that by 2023, annual spending on wearables such as health trackers and RPM devices will hit $20 billion. Then, in April 2019, Transparency Market Research released a study saying the global market for wearable medical devices would pass $29 billion by 2026, with North America and Europe expected to represent the lion’s share of that market.

Those numbers practically sit up demand attention as a major post-acute market opportunity. Many of these wearables already cater to specific and immediate healthcare needs and offer solutions that improve everyday life and care management for people with long-term health issues. That is the marketplace sweet spot where HME providers live and breathe.

What’s required to take advantage of it? Monitor these products as they come out and see how they can integrate with other post-acute products and services already on the market. As for HME Business, you can rest assured that we will definitely be reporting on these products as they proliferate.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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