The Rise of Niche Medical Wearables: Five Devices to Watch in 2017

Wearables to Watch in 2017

It’s no question that wearable health devices are commonplace in the US (and around the globe, for that matter). People want to know more and more about what is going on inside their bodies. With new ways to track internal metrics and new health data emerging and collected based on necessity, it is only a matter of time until the health and fitness devices reach a level of medical diagnostic precision. As these wearable health trackers develop and adapt to meet the demands of the market, wearable medical devices are growing in order to track and analyze more data and even provide treatments based on the data collected.

While 2017 is setting up to be the year for niche medical wearable devices, fitness trackers are still extremely prevalent in our culture, and more fitness bands are bound to be around the corner. The focus is going to shift from fitness apps to clinical grade devices that are programed to perform a certain task or collect specific data. Based on the widespread publicity of the recent Stanford Experiment using data collected from a wearable health device and using it to diagnose an illness before its symptoms begin to show, there is bound to also be an avalanche of medical grade health monitors. This is going to lead to developments in sensor technology, and likely making it simpler for people to learn more about their bodies.

Until the use of smart textiles, conductive thread, and woven sensor technology, wrist worn wearable devices will not be leaving the market anytime soon. However, while fitness bands have made wrist-worn wearables commonplace, it is hopeful that a shift will soon occur to body-worn devices. While a wrist-worn medical device is discreet and can appear to most as a fitness tracker, one must wonder how accurate and thorough the data collected is. While a body worn wearable may be more involved than simply strapping something to your wrist, if there is a medical reason that a user is tracking data, this extra coverage (and likely, further sensor integration) can aid in not only more accurate data collection, but more data collection overall.

There are many medical devices that are emerging this year, and we’ve put together a list of some of the latest technologies that could redefine the use of medical devices this year.

Biotricity is a company we have been following closely, and with the development of their AT&T powered Bioflux, they have solidified themselves a spot in the wearable medical devices market. Bioflux is an FDA-approved clinical grade heart monitor. Easily customizable for patients, their monitor it can be used as a 24/7 remote monitoring system with customized flags and alerts established. Biotricity’s goal is to change the healthcare market from a reactive to a proactive approach, attempting to not only empower the patient to take more control of their data, but also to help better manage heart related illness. By monitoring the patient and allowing them access to their IoT data 24/7, they are able to see the direct effects of their actions, which promotes following doctors orders more closely.

FDA has approved the first Artificial Pancreas for Type 1 Diabetes patients. Worn on the side, this artificial organ is about the size of the smart phone. This will attach to patients just like an insulin pump. This is major for patients suffering Type 1 Diabetes, as it allows for patients to take further control of their illness. While patients will still have to prick their finger to monitor levels in their blood, this will greatly improve the monitoring and help sufferers sustain a healthier life.

Quell by NeuroMetrix is an FDA cleared, non-prescription wearable treatment for chronic pain sufferers. This wearable is worn around the users calf, offering consistent pain relief via neurotechnology. The technology associated with this method of pain relief is consistently updating, offering more patient interface options via the connected application. This wearable could redefine how we use drugs and medicines to treat chronic pain, and in the future, maybe this technology could be applied to treatment of other ailments.

Bloomlife is a stick on sensor for pregnant women that times contractions, and tracks growth and changes over the third trimester of the pregnancy. This is a major development in pregnancy tracking, as not all data needs to be obtained during checkups anymore. This is not the first pregnancy-related wearable – Drexel University has also developed a smart textile belly band that offers full coverage of the stomach to assess fetal wellbeing (though this one has yet to be seen on the market), and Kaishi is a US based pregnancy device that is launching overseas this year.

QardioCore is another wearable that can monitor ECG, Temperature, Heart Rate Variability, and Activity (among other features), and can send this all to a phone app, as well as a Dashboard to be accessed by your doctor. This is a transitional wearable that provides clinical grade results, but can be used as a recreational fitness tracker or a health monitor. This chest-worn garment records continuously, recording over 20 million data points in one day and sending them all to you via Bluetooth technology, removing any need for wires.

As a general rule, smart clothing, smart suits, and smart vests are on the horizon and will begin to be a viable treatment and tracking option for the general public. These medical garments have been promised to offer anything from full coverage sensor integration for monitoring vitals, to supporting and enforcing muscle strength, to heating or cooling the body depending on medical necessity. The possibilities of this are truly endless, and I think that these products will thrive in the medical field as people long to harness more control of their health data and learn more about themselves. We are working with medical device manufacturers to create vests and holsters to accommodate different technologies, and it is exciting to see more widespread utilization of wearable technology in the clinical medical setting.

It is going to be an interesting year for wearable medical devices as they find their stride in the clinical field. The demand for the public learning more about themselves, be it about their general health or about a specified illness, is overwhelming, and the desire for new home-health solutions will also lead to new developments in the clinical grade home health field.