Consumers, not hospitals, will drive remote monitoring market

While remote monitoring is growing in popularity among hospitals nationwide, it's shortly going to become a consumer-focused market, according to new research from IMS Research, Englewood, Colo.

The reason: Hospitals are excited about the technology, but hamstrung by regulations, security and storage concerns, and complicated IT systems, IMS researchers say. And vendors are even finding that physicians are slow to prescribe apps as part of their treatment plans. App store Happtique, which is working to vet apps for efficacy now, is now pilot testing a new program to convince doctors to use apps in their clinical practice, but the results are far from certain.

So, within the next four years, the market is going to flip to one in which consumers use remote monitoring tools to self-monitor their health, ultimately making up 80 percent of the users. One big reason: Consumers will lose patience with hospitals' entrenched systems--which can hamper their ability to connect with different remote monitoring apps and systems--and simply decide to do things for themselves, according to analysis by eWeek.

"One of the issues with telehealth systems and mass rollout is who pays for it, and this is going to be a problem over the next few years," IMS analyst Phillip Maddocks tells eWeek. "This is not the case with self-monitoring as the consumers are responsible for buying their own devices."

Interestingly, the report indicates consumers will move beyond the low-level wellness and fitness apps and systems that are so popular today. Many will invest more clinical devices, such as wireless glucometers and blood pressure monitors, and collect and share that data with their healthcare providers, the report indicates.

Healthcare providers will continue to grow their remote monitoring presence, however. The report predicts the number of health systems using "managed telehealth systems"--the researchers' term for facility-based monitoring systems--will grow from 5 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2016.

And in truth, even a smaller percentage of  the market is still pretty impressive. The IMS report predicts that 50 million-plus wireless health monitoring devices will be sold throughout the next five years.

One issue the report doesn't address, however, is that of apps' efficacy, and how that could affect consumer confidence, and willingness to use the systems. Groups like Happtique are attempting to sort and vet the exploding mHealth app market, but have only just gotten started. It'll be interesting to see whether they're able to rank and recommend apps soon enough to keep consumers engaged with notoriously non-sticky healthcare apps.

To learn more:
- check out IMS Research's announcement
- see eWeek's report