The future of wearable medical devices: Page 2 of 5

June 20, 2016 // By Neil Oliver
The future of wearable medical devices
The technological convergence of portable consumer electronics such as smartphones, smart watches and fitness devices with that of professional medical equipment such as pulse oximetry, ECG and Glucose meters as well as ultrasound scanners and kidney diagnostics, is increasingly blurring the lines between equipment designed for practitioners and devices used by consumers.

The benefits of wearable and portable medical devices are clear. Wearables make patient data readily accessible and they may reduce the frequency of visits to a doctor and in doing so alleviate the burden on our healthcare system. As well as this, it's becoming cheaper to produce wearable medical devices that fulfil the function traditionally limited to large and expensive medical devices in hospitals.

So surely that's that? Wearable medical devices will revolutionise our lives and we can thank Intel's Gordon Moore for bearing witness to the trend for smaller and smaller electronics? Not quite. You see, many experts in the industry are already raising eyebrows at what they believe to be a bad precedent, an incompatibility between two industries that operate in fundamentally very different ways.


Circle of life

The problem is one of business strategy. The last decade has witnessed unprecedented globalisation, with cross-border trading blocs resulting in international supply chains with highly responsive logistical networks. This has increased competition in the global marketplace and created a price based race to the bottom. As a result, consumer product development life cycles (PDLCs) have shrunk drastically. A typical consumer product life cycle is 12 months. It can stretch to 24 months and be as short as six.

This can be attributed to increased disposable income in emerging economies, more global competition, access to cheap labour and an incessant consumer demand for the next best thing. In contrast to this, medical device PDLCs are much longer, typically 10 years. Due to the lower volume production, higher research and development (R&D) costs, more lucrative healthcare contracts and a desire to yield a higher return on investment (ROI), medical devices are designed to last much longer.

It's no surprise then, that many in the medical industry are sceptical of the long term reliability, safety and quality of wearable medical devices. Add to this, the fact that we're living longer on average, it's vital that the solution is sustainable. Here at Accutronics we've got 40 years of experience in designing, developing and manufacturing batteries and we've seen devices become smaller over the years. As a result so have the batteries that power them.

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