Wearable Technology has Potential in Medical and Healthcare Sector
The medical and healthcare sector, primarily characterised as ‘digital health’, represents the single largest opportunity for the wearable technology industry.
Patients want it, some physicians are embracing it, insurance companies are starting to fund some of it, regulators are approving some of it and companies - big and small - all want to be involved.
Healthcare is, by far, the most complicated of the areas that wearable technology will impact. Back health applications, including issues related to posture, pain and growth, are a particular area where wearables may have an impact. From developing and maintaining posture as a preventative measure against back pain, to training exercises in the form of therapy, to spinal motion characterisation, many solutions are already, or will soon be, available. This is one of several prominent areas to broadly adopt many different wearable technology solutions.
Evolution of back pain solutions
First, let us look at the problem that needs solving: two easy clicks from the American Chiropractic Association homepage lands you on a page entitled ‘Back pain facts and statistics’, complete with data emphasising the size of problem that people in the US face. According to the site, ‘80% of the population will experience a back problem’, corresponding to ‘one half of all working Americans … each year’, or ‘31million Americans … at any given time’. This kind of statement should sound familiar to those who read reports on the subject.
But the use of wearable technology (of sorts) in the treatment and prevention of back problems is nothing new. Depending on how the sector is defined, solutions from the use of crude mechanical braces to correct posture, to the more common and more recent elastic solutions that can be purchased over the counter, can all be included. But as the solutions become electronic, more familiar wearable technology products enter the landscape.
When the focus is shifted to the rehabilitative sector, a new set of solutions emerges. Valedo is a medical device used to provide live feedback during back rehabilitation exercises. With direct medical implications, the level of regulation here is higher than for the posture devices. This kind of device is enabled by improved power consumption in transmission technology, as well as a broad network of mobile phone and tablets that acts as ubiquitous, high performance, wireless enabled user interfaces for these sensor based devices.