How wearables could advance in the year ahead

One expectation in digital health likely to bear truth in 2016 is greater advancement in wearables, as developers push forward new designs and innovation in component production fosters new capabilities, according to a recent Reuters report.

The wearables wave, led both by start-up participants and tenured device veterans, also will stir increased regulatory oversight of medical-grade products, for which the Food and Drug Administration already is working to hire expertise, the article notes. Wearables under development include wristbands that can help epileptics by warning of impending seizures and devices that can help patients battling depression. Yet, as a CB Insights report revealed in mid-October, funding for private wearable start-up companies has slowed this year, and the funding decline could be as high as 72 percent, compared to high investment numbers seen in 2014.

That expectation, however, could be altered if and when wearables makers hurdle current challenges.

The wearable focus ahead will go way beyond current sensors that track movement and allow for data collection needed for disease treatment and management, Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, tells Reuters.

"The sensors are fantastic overall for collecting data," Topol says, noting it is "data analytics and the clinical utility parts that most of the companies haven't figured out yet."

In addition to the increasing consumer adoption, another big market driver is the incentive aspect of using such tools as the Affordable Care Act rewards providers that can prove they're focused on keeping a greater number of patients healthy.

"These wearables are just tools to get the health data," Jody Ranck, a District of Columbia-based healthcare consultant, tells Reuters. "Now, you can lose money."

As FierceMobileHealthcare recently reported eight out of 10 smartphone users anticipate using advanced sensory technologies to gain health insight in relation to memory, hearing and vision, according to an Ericsson ConsumerLab trends report. The insight predicts 'wearables' will morph into 'internables,' and half of all smartphone users believe the internal sensors will be providing updates on health and wellbeing within three years.

For more information:
- read the Reuters article