Have wearable devices jumped the shark?

There is little doubt and plenty of evidence; mobile healthcare monitoring services, software and devices are on the cusp of huge growth and adoption.

In fact, Canalys Research declares this year will be 'the' year for wearable bands with more than 17 million expected to ship in 2014. According to their report, 1.6 million smart bands were shipped in the second half of 2013.

ABI research firm is even more bullish on the market, with a study predicting that 90 million wearable computing devices will ship this year.

As FierceMobileHealthcare reported earlier this month, mobile monitoring services are a major factor spurring growth in the mHealth market, an industry that is expected to hit projected revenue of more than $49 billion within six years. Such monitoring services continue to evolve, from unique device form factors to being built into smartphones, such as Samsung's Galaxy S5.

Yet despite all the rosy market indicators for mobile healthcare vendors and services providers, big challenges lie ahead. The list includes everything from impending regulatory activity to data security. As we reported this past week, a Brookings report reveals how a lack of government agency reimbursement of such services represents a market obstacle.

The top hurdle, however, may lie with the health-conscious user/patient/consumer population and how much monitoring, data and medical insight users truly want and need, even if the device cost is below that of any other computing tool in their lives. After all, just how many armbands can one person wear?

The same scenario is true when it comes to mobile healthcare apps accessed on a smartphone. Just how many apps will a person ultimately use?

The speed of mobile wearable and monitoring device innovation may actually end up impeding user adoption--except in the patient care situation where a doctor prescribes a wearable as part of treatment and recovery--as users are confronted with too many choices and not enough arm room.

The same is true for mobile healthcare apps. How many millions of smartphones are cluttered with 'new' software tech that a user engages for a short time before moving on to the next greatest app or just ignores at some point due to time constraints.

While it's evident that the days of the pedometer are being left in the dust as 'smart watches' and new wearables take center stage, perhaps mobile healthcare vendors and services players should consider teaming up, merging innovations and collaborating on apps and devices that offer a robust feature set. They still can get a piece of the revenue pie while expanding their brand and continuing to innovate, all while building a wider customer base.

Otherwise many could end up like the once 'innovative' digital bathroom scale, pushed aside under the sink and layered with dust. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)

Editor's Note: Learn about provider plans for using mobile health technology in the coming year. Sign up for FierceHealthIT's March 20 webinar, "mHealth tech trends to watch for in 2014," featuring speakers from the Scripps Translational Science Institute, the Center for Medical Interoperability and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Register today