The Wearables Leading the Wave of Preventing Disease

By Jasmine Sanchez

In 2016, the United States annual healthcare cost totaled to $3.3 trillion dollars. A 7% increase in healthcare costs from the year before which roughly accounted for 18% of the nation’s GDP. Because of the known fact that there are over 43 million Americans without healthcare, the high spending cost of healthcare is a very controversial issue. 

One huge cost factor for healthcare spending is related to the year-to-year development of medical technology. It is estimated that 40-50% of our annual cost increases can be traced back to the development of new and old medical technology. There’s no question about it; the United States spends too much on our healthcare system while millions of Americans continue to be displeased from healthcare companies across the country.

The problem if we were to completely cut out our spending cost in developing new medical technologies is that we would lose our place in developing some of the most groundbreaking innovations in the medical field among other countries. Most Americans actually want to continue to see research and development done, but without the ridiculously high spending costs. 

Doctors and medical students also find it essential to fund research and development of medical technology because they believe it helps in their practice. Overall, Americans evidently agree that the healthcare industry should be constantly innovating in order to have the best medical technology without compromising other medical necessities that Americans need such as affordable healthcare.


Opportunities in Wearables

Wearables


Wearable technology is an evolving medical trend that is helping solve some of healthcare’s biggest problems. Whereas in the past, wearables have been worn to help users stay in shape, a new line of wearables that monitors users health 24/7 are taking the market to help detect life-threatening conditions, collect biometric data to help with patient diagnoses and even administer medicine to alleviate pain. 

These types of wearables can be referred to as preventive disease wearables or medical wearables. With preventive disease wearables, healthcare providers can collect data from patients, as well as allowing doctors to be instantly connected to their patients data without the hassle of scheduling simple and tedious appointments. 

Advancing disease prevention wearables could allow for us to reduce our health costs while still continuing to develop new MedTech innovations at the same time. Millions of Americans today already use wearables and trackers to take control of their health and fitness and as wearables continue to advance we’ll soon be able to use wearables that accurately analyze our health and detect medical conditions.

About half of Americans have one or more chronic disease during their lifetime. Chronic diseases include heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, asthma and more. With the use of preventive disease wearables and trackers that monitor patients vitals such as their blood pressure, heart rate and more, it will be easier for doctors to determine their patients symptoms and accurately diagnose them. 

They can also help address specific problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, heart arrhythmia, pain management, breast cancer, and more. Preventive disease wearables can help with early disease prevention, lifestyle changes, and can help take part in the efforts of reducing our overall health care costs.

The American healthcare system is pushing for solutions to ultimately reduce our nationwide spending costs. With the development of preventive disease wearables, patients, doctors, and the overall healthcare system can help reduce costs. 

Patients could monitor their health remotely without having to schedule tedious doctor appointments. Doctors can save time by monitoring their patients health digitally and focusing on finding solutions to their diseases. 

It is estimated that with continuous monitoring of patients instead of periodic testing in the hospital, doctors could reduce the cost of treatment by 10% to 20%, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. For example, the cost for a patient with insurance taking a simple blood test can range anywhere from $100 to $3000 for complex tests. For patients with no insurance, the starting cost of a blood pressure test can cost around $1500 or more.

Preventive disease wearables can do more for the healthcare industry than just preventing chronic diseases or reducing our annual healthcare budget cost. They can empower patients by giving them the knowledge to become more aware about certain diseases and about their own personal health. 

Medical wearables can also help keep patients more engaged with their doctors by constantly having your own medical information synced into your phone allowing you to have access to your own medical information at the tip of your fingers.


Introduction of New Wearable Applications

The most common types of wearables are wrist-worn fitness trackers, but new wearables are now being introduced to be worn in different areas of your body such as headsets and glasses, earsets, clothing, and more. Some examples include sleeves, wireless earpieces, and even brainwave-reading technology.  


Tracking Blood Pressure

Hypertension, also known by many as “The Silent Killer” is one of the deadliest chronic diseases in the world. In the United States, nearly 80 million Americans have hypertension. Many adults can go years without being aware of having high blood pressure which can put them at risk of having a stroke. 

With wearable devices meant to monitor your blood pressure at all times, this can significantly reduce the risk of adults being unaware of a hypertension issue. 

Wearables

Siren Care: Siren Care creates Neuro Fabrics by finding a way to embed electronics directly inside of fabric to create smart textiles that are flexible, washable, seamless, and can be produced on standard weaving machines. The company’s first product line is the ‘Siren Diabetic Sock’ that proactively tracks foot temperature, which then transmit information to the Siren Care app, helping you find potential signs of diabetic foot ulcers.

Omron Healthcare: Omron Healthcare creates products for health and wellness, personal fitness, and monitoring blood pressure. Although Omron Healthcare has been around since 1933, the company has been looking to expand through new innovations with has led to some recent investments over the past few two years. The Omron Heart Guide is a wearable blood pressure monitor that can also track sleep quality and daily activity and fits into a 25-millimeter band. Omron has also created a new app called Omron Connect, which syncs via Bluetooth with every connected Omron blood pressure monitor. You can store, track, and share your heart health data with your doctor. 

Blumio: Blumio is the world's first cuffless blood pressure monitor that goes where you go. Blumio makes it possible to track and monitor a person’s blood pressure throughout the day, opening a new window to cardiovascular health.Continuous blood pressure monitoring for the 80 million Americans suffering from hypertension will improve diagnosis, increase effectiveness of treatment, and reduce cost of care.

Heartisans: Heartisans is a medical-quality heart health wearable. Aiming to tackle a medical emergency known as sudden cardiac arrest, Heartisans delivers an advance warning of any cardiac arrest episode so you can take life-saving actions. Heartisans measures blood pressure using Pulse Transit Time (PTT), a method that has been studied extensively as a non-invasive alternative to blood pressure measurement. PTT is the time between when a pulse leaves the heart and when it arrives at a peripheral part of the body.

iHealth Labs: The iHealth Wireless Monitor fits on your wrist and provides you with accurate results that connect via Bluetooth to your favorite mobile devices. You can slide the band onto your wrist and take your blood pressure whenever you want using the free app that connects with this device.


Cardiac Monitoring With Wearables

Wearables

Wearable ECG devices can constantly monitor heart rates to check any irregular or regular heart patterns. Heart monitoring wearables can also record events such as chest pains, shortness of breath, and other concerning symptoms. When an event is recorded, the device gets to work taking vitals like heart rate, blood oxygen level, and skin temperature.


iBeat: (PnP Spring 2017 Batch) iBeat is a breakthrough smartwatch that continuously monitors users’ 24-7 heart activity and can get them immediate help in any emergency. The company is also currently building the largest emergency response network in the U.S., which includes their cellular smartwatch, the ‘Heart Watch’ - used to continuously monitor users heart activity. In a life-threatening emergency, iBeat will instantly alert the user, their loved ones, emergency responders, and its Heart Hero Network in real-time, helping ensure immediate care and saving the user’s life.

Kenzen: (Spring 2018 Batch) Kenzen delivers real-time health insights using patented biosensors, sweat analysis and predictive analytics. Kenzen’s ECHO Wearable Smart Patch continuously tracks sweat analysis to measure vital signs and motion sensors to predict and prevent avoidable injuries and illnesses. They were featured/awarded in the “Future Athlete” category by the NFL, TechCrunch and Stanford, and named the judges favorite at the 2017 Google Demo Day in Europe.

Rethink Medical: (PnP Fall 2017 Batch) ReThink Medical produces a remote patient physiologic monitor for predicting heart failure related hospitalizations. The company is developing a wireless (Bluetooth, WiFi, or Cellular) monitoring device with a wide range of applications. With their wearable device, they’re hoping to track six different vitals including heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration, and fluid levels.

Nanowear: (PnP fall 2017 batch) A MedTech startup changing the world of diagnostic monitoring through medical-grade smart textiles. Instead of everyday fitness tracking, it focuses on textile-based solutions for the cardiac, neurological, diabetic and sports medicine diagnostics monitoring markets. In 2016, it received FDA approval for its first product, a remote cardiac monitoring undergarment called SimplECG.

Motiv: Motiv is a personal technology brand focused on making wearable devices that fit seamlessly into our lives. With their first line of personal fitness trackers, they’re dedicated to building product experiences that are easy to use. The Motiv Ring is a heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, and sleep tracker.

Moov: Moov is a fitness wearable that offers connection in real time to motivational coaching. Moov has developed a sweat-absorbing, breathable, and quick drying  heart-rate powered sweatband. The sweatband accurately tracks your heart rate during your workout.


Barriers with Medical Wearables

Wearables

Medical wearables are slowly making their way into the hands of more people, but have yet to hit the mainstream market. A key reason why they have not taken the mainstream market by storm yet is because of the safety and accuracy standards they must meet required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). 

Regulatory obstacles, compliance issues, and navigating insurance reimbursement must all be considered when contemplating the broader use of medical-grade wearable devices. Although these are current barriers within the preventive wearable market, both startups and big companies are working to meet the standards and create accurate preventive disease wearables. 

---

About the Author:

Jasmine Sanchez is the Summer Intern for the Health & Wellness vertical at Plug and Play Ventures. At Plug and Play, Jasmine focuses her time on researching trending markets and innovations, planning meetups and sourcing startups in healthcare. She is also a third-year Business Entrepreneurship student at San Jose State University. Her passion is in startups and entrepreneurship. She is currently working on her own startup called Vessel Athletics with a few other students at San Jose State which is an innovative athletic wear top brand/water wearable that is focusing on providing runners and bikers with a new solution to staying hydrated. Jasmine is also Head of Outreach for a student-led startup accelerator club at San Jose State called IDEAS. On her free time, she enjoys staying active by running, biking, snowboarding, playing basketball and going to the gym.