News Feature | February 15, 2017

Seven Million Patients Now Remotely Monitored By Connected Health Devices

By Jof Enriquez
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq

mhealth in clinical trials

The number of patients under remote monitoring using interconnected devices jumped by 44 percent to 7.1 million in 2016, as patients and providers continue to realize the convenience and cost-efficiency of mHealth devices and applications, according to a report by Berg Insight.

mHealth — the use of connected and mobile devices to support healthcare — continues to revolutionize the industry. In particular, the drive for preventive over acute care has accelerated the development of mHealth devices and systems. Berg Insight projects that, by 2021, there will be 50.2 million people remotely monitored using interconnected devices as part of their care regimen, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47.9 percent. This figure does not even include those who use connected devices for personal health tracking alone.

“Care delivery platforms and mHealth connectivity solutions are two of the most rapidly developing parts of the mHealth technology value chain,” states the industry report, according to mHealth Intelligence. “Care delivery platforms are software solutions that enable the remote delivery of healthcare services and allow care efforts to be coordinated between patients, various professional caregivers and other stakeholders such as the patient’s family.”

Specific patient-centered monitoring of chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, where patients use their smartphones instead of, or in tandem with, dedicated devices, is expected to increase over the next five years, with a CAGR of 109 percent, according to the report.

Remote cardiac monitoring – a proven technology used by many patients for over a decade in the United States – along with sleep therapy devices, whose own segment growth is led by the vendor ResMed — accounted for 80 percent of all connected home monitoring services in 2016.

“The number of remotely monitored sleep therapy patients grew by 70 percent in 2016” says Anders Frick, Senior Analyst at Berg Insight.

Telehealth applications represented the third-largest segment growth, with half a million new users. ECG, blood glucose monitoring, and medication adherence applications accounted for fewer than one million new users combined, reports mHealth Intelligence.

The number of mHealth devices with cellular connectivity increased from 3 million in 2015 to 4.9 million in 2016. This was attributed to a younger, more engaged demographic, more open to using the latest technology to share personal health information.

"Health-related apps and devices are generating potentially huge amounts of data. When the line between medical devices and health gadgets become blurred, traditional as well as startup companies try to position themselves as important stakeholders in the ecosystem for mHealth data," explains Berg Insight.

Medtech and drug companies have been slow in adopting digitization compared to tech companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung, but they are catching on quickly.

"There is a strong trend towards incorporating more connectivity in medical devices and pharmaceuticals in order to enable new services and value propositions," according to Berg Insight’s report.

For example, Medtronic, whose CareLink network can remotely monitor patients with its CRM implants, continues to invest in startups developing remote monitoring technology and launch smartphone-connected CGM devices. Philips, meanwhile, believes that connected health technologies are central to a "personalization of healthcare" trend they intend to follow long-term as a company strategy. The Dutch company, in collaboration with IBM, Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), and the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K., is implementing telehealth pilots using different devices, sensors, and apps to remotely monitor patients with long-term illnesses.

In addition, connected health/digital health devices are likely to proliferate because companies and health systems are inclined to satisfy value-based payment models.

Bryan Lubel, President of Integron, an IoT and health IT solutions provider, told MDO, “The original customer base of medical device OEMs is now expanding to insurance payers. Integron is looking at implementing technology that could potentially reduce costs by more effectively monitoring chronic disease states. This could prevent unexpected medical costs to insurance companies by proactively monitoring diseases like congestive heart failure, diabetes and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).”

FDA continues to refine its regulatory approach to interconnected devices and medical apps. The regulator has recognized that these can improve clinical trials by reducing study costs and easier recruiting of participants. It has also introduced recommendations for greater interoperability between medical devices, and measures to curb cybersecurity threats.