Preventative Care Markets: Medtech Opportunities at the Beginning of the Care Path and Not at the End

Attention to preventive care to improve the management of curative care is not a new phenomenon. However -with ever rising expenses of healthcare due to ageing demographics, higher demands from users and purchasers for quality, services and accessibility- it is not surprising that we are observing a next generation of preventative care; a switch from disease treatment to disease prevention.

In this three-part article, we will first explore the concept of preventative care itself, followed by innovative medtech examples within the category of wearables. In part II, we will describe some interesting medtech devices within the realm of robotics, disinfection and pharma. In the final part III of the series, we dig deeper into the drivers that compel and shape this market and that make it crystal clear how inevitable and essential preventative care markets are to the sustainability of healthcare management.

An Introduction to the Levels of Preventative Care

The traditional preventative healthcare market includes familiar services such as (routine) screenings, vaccinations, immunizations, and recommendations for a healthier lifestyle. However, this is only the tip of the preventative care market iceberg. Next generation preventative care also includes virtual reality and mHealth products, rehabilitation services to prevent regressions to a particular condition, wearable monitors, patient-centric care, and value-based services, to name only a few.

The market of products and services associated with these care segments is so immense and so diverse that it is impossible to list them all. What can be said though, is that a new range of business opportunities is opening-up and that new products, new services and new solutions will improve both healthcare economics as well as healthcare outcomes, across almost all sectors of healthcare and in all regions of the world.

To help understand the market potential and the various applications of a product/service within the context of preventative care, let us have a closer look at the scope of this sector and the definitions of the levels within it.

Levels of preventative care

Preventative care levels

(Illustrated in the graphic)

Preventative care has been broken down into 3 categories:

Primary – Preventing diseases from developing.
Secondary – Detecting and diagnosing diseases.
Tertiary – Reducing illness and restoring the body after disease detection.

Not surprisingly, the biggest medtech opportunities are found in the secondary and tertiary preventative care market segments.

New and Innovative Products to Support Preventative Care Markets

Across the entire spectrum of medical branches and healthcare needs, new and/or innovative products are being introduced into the market. Evidently vaccinations, other pharmaceutical preventative care options and software-based solutions are booming and exciting markets within the context of preventative care; however, in this article we wish to focus specifically on medical devices.

The realm of medtech solutions to provide, assist, guide and/or monitor preventative care is immense; from laboratory equipment, wearable devices, to specific medtech innovations across all specialties from cardiovascular care to diabetes and beyond.

In the next section, we will list some of these exciting new/innovative products driving and shaping preventative care markets. Before we begin the list, some buzz words/concepts to help visualize the scope of this market, and that are key to understanding and approaching preventative care medtech are:

  • Monitoring, incl. homecare, telehealth, mHealth, wearables and smartphone apps
  • Data connectivity, incl. big data and blockchain data
  • Diagnosis, incl. AI solutions, tricorders, and wearables
  • Prevention of further illness at the stage of treatment, referring e.g. to robotics in rehabilitation, sterilization practices in labs and other infection prevention, etc.

Let us start here with a recent publication, by presenting the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE winners. This competition set out to find the most innovative, usable and accurate diagnostic all-in-one device capable of capturing key vital signs and health indicators to reflect 13 health conditions. The winners of the device competition (aka the tricorder, as it is frequently compared to Star Trek’s diagnostic device) were:

  • Final Frontier Medical Devices with DxtER – an equipment kit that feeds back into a smartphone, with 7 auxiliary testing functions (e.g. blood test, breath test, etc.)
  • Dynamical Biomarkers Group with DeepQ Kit –a set of 5 auxiliary testing tools and sensors that feed back into an iPad (e.g. blood pressure unit, chest sensor, etc.)

Wearable Medtech Devices and Sensors

Wearables, often also referred to as wearable biosensors, are being used in all sorts of ways to monitor health and illness, predict and/or diagnose ailments, and to encourage and facilitate a healthier and more self-reliant and empowered approach to healthcare. The wearables market was valued around €17 bn in 2016.

Significant players in the wearables market today are Medtronic, Google Inc., Polar Electro, Fitbit, Philips Healthcare, Intelesens Ltd., LifeWarch AG, Nuubo, Omron, Sotera Wireless Inc., and Winmedical Srl.

Examples of recent and upcoming wearables are:

iSmartweaR – Sensor-wearing clothes

This company creates clothing items that can monitor vital signs via sewn-in sensors that are carefully placed within the clothing to be worn by the patient. There is no longer a need for auxiliary wires or electrodes to be attached to the skin. By using waterproof nanotechnologies in conductive fabrics in combination with Bluetooth transmissions, they open up preventative care and monitoring capacities in the fields of sports-health, cardiology, etc.

Echo Labs – Blood analyzing wristband

Created a type of wristband, far beyond the existing capacities of the popular Fitbit, that uses optical signs/indicators derived from blood analysis, allowing the users to measure CO2, Ph, blood pressure and hydration levels. It is aimed at assisting physicians and to encourage behavioral changes to boost personal health.

Lohas Tech – Artery analyzing wearables

Created the BioRF Artery Radar, a wearable sensor (available in the form of a wristband, clothing, and bodyweight-scales) that is able to report on arterial performance without actually placing pressure upon the skin. It can monitor both blood pressure and pulse wave velocity.

PrevBiotech – Bed sore prevention

In the USA alone, around 60,000 patients die due to bed sores annually, representing €10.3 bn spent on care that could have been avoided. The invention of Smart-e-Pants (with market approval since mid-2015), i.e. electronic underwear, specifically aims to avoid bed sores, by housing electrodes near the gluteal muscle and inducing a mild contraction every 10 minutes through an electric pulse.

This is an effective preventative innovation on several levels: it avoids bed sores, it boosts the moral of the patient, and it clears up time for nursing personnel to take care of other tasks and/or patients.

Smart tattoos

A new approach for monitoring and diagnostic opportunities arises through smart tattoos, which are basically highly sensitive electrode-filled patches that are attached directly onto the surface of the skin. Various companies are coming up with smart tattoos to fulfill various functions that aim to reduce and prevent illness and/or the symptoms of a diagnosed condition. Upcoming wearable products include:

  • The University of Illinois in collaboration with researchers in Singapore are working on ultra-thin, flexible, stretchable electronic temporary tattoos that can be stuck on like stickers, capable of adjusting and wrinkling with the skin. They are capable of monitoring electric pulses from the brain, muscle tissue and the heart. Their current model uses solar energy via panels embedded in the tattoo and entails a wireless transmitter.
  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison dabbles in similar technological innovations, having designed a smart tattoo that holds miniscule power transmission lines in S-shapes, to contain energy and optimize transmission performance. The circuits are barely 0.025 mm thick (25 micrometers). This technology can be used in the ICU (and any other setting where excess cables are gladly avoided) as highly accurate wireless monitoring devices.
  • The University of Strathclyde and King’s College London are working on a smart tattoo specifically for the monitoring of glucose in the body. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is one of the key ways of combating diabetic symptoms and to prevent the patient from developing further stages of the condition. These tattoos are in fact injected below the outer layer of the skin and work continuously to evaluate the glucose at a molecular level. A complementary handheld device can collect the glucose-status sent from the tattoo in real time at any point.
Oscar Health – Insurance-employed wearables

A practical, cost-saving and innately preventative use of wearables is seen at the US-based Oscar Health insurance. This insurance provider encourages their members to submit data from their Fitbits, in order to monitor and encourage healthier lifestyles. When a user reaches their health/fitness objectives they receive $1 per day.

There are already also other insurance providers applying wearables to manage members and their health, as well as much larger insurance market players getting involved with it. It is expected that over 240 m wearables will be sold in 2019.

Drivers of the wearables market include:

  • Growing volumes of smartphone users and smartphone applications
  • Increase of wireless technologies, uses and connectivity amongst HC stakeholders
  • Increased awareness and popularity of personal healthcare and fitness
  • Growth of patient-centric care
  • The ease of use/comfort that typifies wearables
  • Technological advancements and particularly the growth of nanotechnologies, and the affordability thereof
  • Insurance fund incentives to use wearables
  • Growth of outpatient care; increased efforts for patients and doctors to monitor patients outside of hospital settings

Barriers:

  • Reimbursement
  • High production and procurement cost

 

In the next blog in this series, we will explore some new medtech devices within the realm of robotics, and examples that include innovations regarding infection-prevention. Furthermore, we will highlight some market values of the pharmaceutical preventative care markets.

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About Laura Weynants

Performs primary and secondary market research to create Country Deep Dive Reports at TforG. Interviews KOLs and medical sector professionals to build on TforG’s healthcare market expertise and competence networks. Complementing five years of sustainability policy and CSR communication, she now focuses on grasping key medical market trends, structures and opportunities in medical sectors worldwide. Coming from an international background of living in Germany, Spain, USA, UK and Belgium, she has gained a keen insight in international organizations and language skills to perform first hand investigations. She graduated from Sussex University Brighton, UK with a BA English Literature and Sociology and achieved a Master Degree in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility in EOI Business School in Madrid, Spain.