The average person may associate wearables solely with fitness junkies. The evolution of personal tracking has brought about a wave of products that are perfect for fitness-conscious consumers, including daily activity trackers such as Fitbit and Jawbone, and even “smart shirts” – exercise clothing that tracks heart rate and breathing as you work out.
But the newest health wearables have the ability to do more than just track your run. Within the past few months alone, Jawbone has introduced UpCoffee, an add on wearable that determines how well a user’s body is reacting to caffeine; Beddit has presented a wearable that informs how well you slept; Scanadu Scout has released a device that processes and measures vitals by simply placing the device on the forehead; and Apple has unveiled its highly anticipated Apple Watch, which will track all vital signs through fitness apps by syncing to an iPhone.
It is tough to exaggerate the influence that wearables will have on healthcare, and as such, on pharma and medical device companies. Although pharma and medical device companies are notorious for risk adversity, their greatest risk in this case is being left behind by tech companies. Allowing tech to own the market is not the best solution for patients, as pharma and medical device companies provide a trusted source that is already in collaboration with diverse players in the healthcare space, is familiarized with the methods, measures, and laws of the industry and is knowledgeable on the particulars of disease treatment and prevention.
Luckily, heavy consumer demand is driving increased investment by pharma in health wearables. A consumer demand survey recently showed that patients expect complimentary services in conjunction with their purchase of prescription drugs and as such, companies are making modifications to existing wearable technology or creating completely new devices.
Pharma researchers designed a wearable for epilepsy and Parkinson’s patients that records and communicates data on a person’s movements, receives analytical information and releases drugs directly into the skin. The device is the first of its kind, as its ability extends beyond collection and recording of information; it also delivers the correct dosage of medicine during seizures, merging patient treatment and monitoring. Similarly, Unilife created wearable, disposable and customizable injectors to replace in-hospital IV infusions that can deliver large volume drugs to patients over long durations.
But technology companies and other innovators aren’t yielding easily to pharma and medical device companies: First Warning Systems developed a cutting-edge wearable device that is placed within a user’s bra to detect early breast tissue abnormalities that may indicate cancer; Equivital created a prototype of a data-transmitting pill for firefighters that detects any initial indication of heat exhaustion and regulates temperature by allowing them to excrete excess heat from the body.
The next wave of healthcare wearables will emphasize health prediction, as opposed to measuring a patient’s current health state. The new wearables will assist in prevention and reduce healthcare costs – two notions that patients already strongly desire. Pharma and medical device companies must stay in the game by developing their own products or forming partnerships, such as the one between Google and Novartis who have created a smart contact lens that calculates glucose in tear fluid and sends data wirelessly to a mobile device.
As InTouch Solutions’ Wendy Blackburn asked, “Perhaps the question isn’t whether Apple might be able to compete with Big Pharma, but whether Big Pharma will be able to step up their game to play with Apple.” It’s not a matter of who should step up; it’s a matter of who will.Image Credit: MedCityNews