Personalization is one of those features that we think about when we look at our individual experiences, apps, and preferences that we've set up for our smartphones, tablets and PCs. Now consider what "personalization" means in terms of your medical condition(s), needs and your fitness abilities and goals – that's truly pushing personalized to the core of the individual experience. Welcome to the realm of medical, health and fitness monitoring; welcome also to one of the fastest growing segments covering end-devices to network and storage equipment to software applications that deliver the interactive and relevant experiences (not to mention help manage the Big Data sets generated and accessed).
eHealth rooted in multiple growth drivers
Why are electronic health (eHealth) monitoring and medical electronic devices such a rising star presently? For one, demand from multiple parties increases the strength and pace of adoption – there are three main parties: (1) insurers, governments, hospitals, and other health service providers; (2) health professionals (doctors, nurses, therapists, etc.); and (3) users who are the patients or guardians. Certainly the overarching demand theme across all three groups is the ability to quickly, reliably, and effectively deliver personalized health and medical monitoring and support that directly addresses the patient's needs and can support preventative care goals.
Taken from the perspective of each demand group's drivers, there are strong pushes that are propelling significant joint-ventures, standards agreements, new component and device design R&D, and shortened time to market cycles to provide access and solutions that are safe and appropriate. One recent example of this type of collaborative venture, as reported by ComputerWorld today, is WebMD and Qualcomm partnering to provide remote eHealth:
[…] to offer consumers a way to upload biometric data from wireless home medical devices. That data can then be shared with healthcare providers.
WebMD's new Health Cloud platform is due out this fall and will be based on Qualcomm's 2net platform, a cloud-based system designed to be interoperable with different wireless medical devices and applications, allowing medical device users and their healthcare providers to access biometric data online.
[…] Those accessing healthcare information using WebMD's mobile app will be asked if they are aware of biometric sensors that could help them better manage chronic illnesses or other healthcare issues. WebMD can also offer up medical literature on how mobile biometric monitoring devices work.
These are powerful market events. Clearly the level of synergy from leading application and service providers coupled with leading semiconductor OEMs with significant impact on educating users and expanding their engagement with biometric sensing devices – which are inherently electronics-based end-devices – is a phenomenal opportunity.
One way to consider what business drivers exist to support further growth and support for these synergies is evidenced in the recent US Congressional testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health by West Health Institute's Dr. Joseph Smith, as reported by MD+DI. The research presented on medical device interoperability alone could not only dramatically improve efficiency at each hospital bed, increase patient safety, and could save as much as US $36 billion annually. As Dr. Smith told the Congressional subcommittee:
We see an enormous opportunity to use information technology and device innovation to bring about the much needed transformation in health care delivery[. …] Today's hospitals are filled with medical devices that are unable to share critical data, creating potential dangers to patients, as well as inefficiencies that put a tremendous financial burden on our health care system [… .]
Medical electronics devices and eHealth growth strong
Medical electronic devices are, of course, front and center in the ability to deliver the eHealth and personal fitness application services for patients and consumers, respectively but they are also inherently the tools of the medical profession. These tools function anywhere from health professional offices and clinics to hospital rooms, surgical operating rooms, and highly sophisticated imaging and testing facilities. This range of medical electronics represents a tremendous breadth of opportunity for many along the semiconductor supply chain, with the caveat, of course, that the devices and components meet the required medical application specifications.
One recent example of medical electronic growth is in the still rapidly growing component sector for microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS). Estimates for biomedical MEMS (bioMEMS) alone are estimated to reach US $6.6 billion in 2018, according to research. Furthermore, the demand for portable medical monitoring devices holds a solid data backing for growth; it is rooted in the unfortunate correlated rise in chronic diseases such as cardiac and pulmonary diseases, diabetes, and hypertension, to name the most prominent. The research by InMedica forecasts that by 2017, roughly 1.8 million patients will participate in eHealth monitoring for chronic diseases.
As we reported in the forthcoming (next week with free subscription) Smith MarketWatch Quarterly, recent data show that, in 2011, the eHealth dedicated-device and software market was roughly US $740 million and is expected to grow by 300% to roughly US $2.5 billion by 2018. The ability to quickly provide health solutions via a smartphone or tablet represents exciting and immediate opportunities that leverage existing technologies by adding medical applications and additional wearable devices.
In sum, the medical electronics sector is continuing its strong growth trajectory and the number of converging drivers is ensuring significant changes, opportunities and the ability to positively impact many patients' lives.