The medical wearable technology market is positioned to increase from $2.73 billion in 2014 to $10.7 billion by 2023. We’ll have to thank seniors for the expected 16 percent growth rate because they are going to be spending more money on various medical technologies to manage and monitor chronic conditions.
There are currently about 46.2 million older adults aged 65 and older in the United States. This is about 14.5 percent of the total population. By the year 2030, the number of seniors will climb to around 74 million. As seniors continue to get older and healthcare costs continue to rise, we will see an increase of medical wearable technology that can be used to cost-effectively provide adequate care for seniors.
Healthcare Challenges to Aging
According to a new federal report on older Americans released in August, seniors are living longer but have to deal with new economic, healthcare, and residential living challenges. More than 20 percent of seniors in the United States have at least one limitation in their vision, hearing, mobility, communication, cognition, or self-care, which requires attention.
According to the National Council on Aging, about 92 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77 percent have at least two. Chronic diseases are responsible for 86 percent of our country’s healthcare spending. In the United States, over $6 billion is spent on glucose test strips for blood glucose level monitoring. This is where medical wearable technology can step in and improve healthcare monitoring and management for seniors.
Future of Medical Wearable Technology for Seniors
Most of us are familiar with some of the various smart wear brands providing monitors or wearable to make monitoring workout routines easier. Now medical wearable technology brands are looking to apply the wearable tech to senior care to help reduce healthcare costs and improve senior patient care.
Gluco-Wise: Noninvasive and Pain-free Glucose Monitoring
Gluco-wise is a London-based company that is working on finishing a product that will allow diabetic patients to accurately monitor their blood glucose levels without having to pierce the skin for testing. The company is also offering unlimited testing so patients can test as often as they would like without worrying about the cost of testing strips or pain. They store your data on their cloud server and a mobile app accompanies the device so you can keep track of your glucose readings over time.
The Allen Band: Personalized Senior Monitoring
Another medical wearable technology brand that is making waves is The Allen Brand. The idea behind the Allen Band is to create a device that is ideal for families and caregivers to monitor their aging parents, but still allows seniors to have a sense of freedom, and more importantly, their dignity.
The bands are still in development but will be able to detect falls, a lack of motion, heart rate, oxygen levels, GPS location, and body temperature. These features are perfect to put the mind of a caregiver at ease, knowing that in the event their senior is in trouble, they can quickly get help.
If the band determines a senior has fallen, the senior must press a button to let their caregiver know they are okay. Caregivers are notified if the button is not pressed. Caregivers can also set alerts for when a senior’s heart rate or body temperature is outside of a specified range, as well as provide a GPS location for wandering seniors.
The Proximity Button: Keeping Wandering Seniors Safe
Proximity Care, another London-based medical tech startup has created a product called the Proximity Button. This is a medical wearable designed for seniors suffering from dementia who are likely to wander. It will warn a caregiver that their senior is wandering before they might even realize they are missing.
The device uses strong magnets to secure onto a senior’s clothing. The caregiver will have an app installed on their phone that will always be looking for the signal from the senior’s device. If the phone cannot find the signal, the caregiver is alerted.
If caregivers are in open areas and their senior wanders, their senior could get up to about 130 feet away before the alarm goes off. However, if you are walking down a street and your senior turns a corner, or if you are in the house, and your senior leaves the premises, the alert will go off much quicker because the phone will no longer be able to see the signal.
Other Future Medical Wearables for Seniors
There are many more companies making medical wearable technology for seniors than the three I named. Various companies are working on using augmented reality to help seniors with ailing eyes be able to see again. Other companies are working on creating smart t-shirts that use thread-based sensors that can monitor stress levels and vital signs, sending information to caregivers or doctors.
Companies are testing and implementing trackers that can continuously monitor heartbeats, detect abnormalities, and have the ability to anticipate future issues such as seizures or heart failure.
Challenges to Medical Tech Adoption Among Seniors
Seniors will definitely drive the growth in the medical wearable technology industry in the near future. However, there are some challenges that developers will face in making wearable health tech become a common way of caring for seniors.
It will be challenging for seniors to adopt medical wearable technologies because these devices will be expensive. Also, if insurance reimbursement policies do not cover these new technologies, many seniors will not be able to afford them. Medical wearable developers need to look at ways to produce quality cost-effective devices so that seniors can afford to buy them.
Another way that medical wearable developers may struggle to get seniors to adopt their technology is in its design. Developers are designing highly innovative technologies for older generations that struggle using technology. Developers will need to make sure they keep their device functionality simple enough for older users to operate and understand.