Developing remote monitoring devices presents both a golden opportunity and black hole to technology companies, writes a Forbes contributor, as businesses race to enter a field that’s rife with multiple obstacles.
Tech companies are looking to capitalize on opportunities created by health care reform, including home monitoring devices, which can detect and store a variety of vital signs and other data that can be sent directly to medical professionals.
“While home monitoring devices may have a glittering future, some of today’s tech companies are chasing fool’s gold,” writes Forbes contributor Robert Pearl, M.D. “That’s because some promoters of home monitoring technology believe doctors will carefully scrutinize each EKG [electrocardiogram] or blood sugar reading and use the information to tailor perfect regimens for their patients. This is not how medicine works.”
Merely collecting and compiling thousands of EKG tracings isn’t very valuable, he says, and flooding a patient’s electronic medical record (EMR) with all that data could actually make it more difficult for doctors to identify more important information.
“[D]octors don’t need thousands of data points to deliver the best care,” says the article. “They simply want to know when certain predetermined boundaries are violated or when a new, worrisome trend develops.”
Regulations present another obstacle, says the article. Remote monitoring platforms that gather health information that is then sent directly to physicians or into an EMR are considered “medical devices” and must be FDA-approved. For systems that could encompass a bathroom scale that sends weight readings directly to a physician, in cases where patients have been directed to monitor their weight, the scale would have to be approved by the FDA.
This, says Pearl, would add “significant cost to device manufacturers, consumers, and the healthcare system.”
Despite possible pitfalls, plenty of opportunity remains in the home monitoring field for high-tech companies, especially as up to half of adults in the U.S. live with a chronic condition, while more than half own highly-capable smartphones.
“I believe the conditions are ripe for a multibillion-dollar market,” writes Pearl. “…If today’s Silicon Valley forty-niners can solve the logistical and regulatory challenges of embedding home monitoring devices into a smartphone, they will increase patient engagement and clinical outcomes. The gold rush is on and the spoils could go to whoever gets there first.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace