IMS Research, a market research firm recently acquired by IHS Inc., projects that medical devices utilized by the consumer to self-monitor their health, rather than those used in managed telehealth systems, will provide the largest opportunity for wireless technologies over the next five years. IMS Research forecasts that more than 50 million wireless health monitoring devices will ship for consumer monitoring applications during the next five years, with a smaller number being used in managed telehealth systems.
According to the report from IMS Research  (Wellingborough, England), medical devices bought by the consumer to self-monitor their health will account for more than 80% of all wireless-enabled consumer medical devices in 2016.
The demand for self-monitoring one’s health is growing much faster than that for telehealth implementation, says the research firm. Even without healthcare systems that are adapted for this, consumers want to be able to monitor and manage their own health at home. However, the proportion of wireless devices used in managed telehealth programs is forecast to increase from 5% in 2011, to 20% in 2016 as telehealth deployment grows.
“Due to the relatively slow deployment of managed telehealth systems, which is in part due to a reluctance from health providers to move past trials, issues with reimbursement, and stringent regulations related to the use and storage of medical data, medical devices used by the consumer to independently monitor their health will provide the biggest uptake of wireless technology in consumer health devices over the next five years,” says Lisa Arrowsmith, senior analyst at IMS Research.
One the main drivers for the inclusion of wireless technology in consumer health monitoring devices is the ability to monitor one’s health using a separate device- such as a smartphone -to collect and view the information, says IMS Research. There is currently a wealth of “apps” on several platforms which allow users to transfer readings from a medical device, which can then be stored and displayed on the device, or uploaded to a cloud -based system such as Microsoft HealthVault.
This is possible by buying independent devices from companies such as A&D Medical which utilize wireless technologies such as ANT+ or Bluetooth. Measurements from these devices can be viewed and stored locally, on devices such as smart phones, or uploaded to independent cloud-based systems. Complete systems by companies such as Entra Health Systems also allow consumers to take blood glucose readings and upload them to a dedicated cloud-based system via a mobile phone using Bluetooth wireless technology. This information can then either be viewed directly on a mobile device such as a smartphone, or via an Internet portal on a computer, according to the research firm.
“The increase in consumer familiarity with mobile applications as well as an increased awareness of the importance of monitoring health levels is driving the market for connected health devices,” says Arrowsmith. “Many consumers already utilize smartphone apps to track their own health and fitness results, with devices such as activity monitors and heart-rate monitors. Now, there is increasing availability of health-related peripheral devices such as blood pressure monitors to track and upload information in real time via a wireless or wired connection to devices such as smartphones and tablets.”