A recent joint venture between United Healthcare, one of the major US health insurance companies, and three major healthcare systems, Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, TX, Dignity Health in San Francisco, CA, and Advocate Health Care in Illinois was recently formed and will operate as a new company, SharedClarity, according to this recent article in InformationWeek.
Growth drivers and synergies
What is most important about this news for the semiconductor and electronics industry is the incredible thrust and drive that the SharedClarity's research will provide to the medical electronics market, both for wearable and especially – critically - for implantable devices. As discussed in the article and the recent press release, this is one of the first times that a multi-institutional, collaborative study is being undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific set of medical electronic devices, and especially noteworthy is that it is the first time that a health insurance company is participating. The number of patient data points and opportunities for significant research is extremely promising, estimates are that roughly "7 million patients a year at more than 850 locations across the [US]" are cared for by the participating companies represented by SharedClarity.
On the broader market front there are similar synergies that point to increased support for existing drivers for medical electronics growth (see also this discussion in Qmed on exponential technologies in medicine). Namely, as we have discussed in this column recently, the importance of market diversification and the opportunity realized from cost reduction and commoditization of various component classes has propelled research and development in medical electronics (see the most recent Smith MarketWatch Quarterly for a deeper discussion on the component architectural evolution aspects).
Global market growth for medical electronics
Demand is driving these moves. There is increasing, widespread, interest in more distributed, remote, and affordable medical monitoring and chronic disease management which is addressable through medical electronics.
Globally, there is increasing pressure on governments and healthcare providers and insurers alike to increase patient care and support, particularly for chronic disease monitoring and management (see this recent IHS InMedica research on US cardiac monitoring growth forecast of 25% by 2016). The ability to manage chronic diseases, which are on the increase globally, not only increases patients' quality of life and prevents hospitalization and more invasive therapies, but it also reduces a significant and growing cost reality. While everyone hates to associate costs as a driver for health solutions, the economic reality is there and cannot be discounted. Billions are spent annually that could be saved through improved chronic disease management; and, importantly, those expenditures could be used to increase research and treatment or solve other health and human rights issues faced by nations.
Opportunities for nanotech increase
Alongside of the increase in medical electronic device adoption and expanded use-cases also comes increased opportunities and research for the growing field of medical nanotechnology (see this recent infographic from Keithley). Generally an implantable therapy or treatment, medical nanotechnology is still at the very early stages of coming to market but shows tremendous promise for improving patients' health and quality of life, as well as opening more doors for growth in the semiconductor and electronics industry. Among the component sectors poised for significant growth as a result of the variety of medical electronics and nanotech opportunities is, of course, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).
The current growth wave for medical MEMS and medical electronics devices is in the wearable sector, with estimates for growth "set to climb to [US] $31.0 million [in 2013] and then jump 33 percent to [US] $41.3 million in 2014, according to the IHS iSuppli MEMS and Sensors services […]. An even larger increase, equivalent to 47 percent, will occur in 2015 when takings amount to [US] $60.8 million."
Beyond the wearable medical electronics, forecasts for implantable devices and medical nanotech therapies are uncertain. What is certain is that the numbers are promising and the opportunities for improved quality of life for us all are even greater.