Europe is facing a healthcare cost dilemma, says Chris Van Hoof, Program Director of Wearable Healthcare at imec (Leuven, Belgium). “The increasing cost burden in terms of health expenditure is becoming unsustainable. Technology saves more and more lives, but has not lowered cost,” says Van Hoof.
One solution is to shift the focus in healthcare to preventive care. The popularity of wireless consumer wellness devices will help drive this shift, says Van Hoof.
At the Wireless Connectivity in Medical Devices conference, taking place in Munich on 21 and 22 May, Van Hoof will discuss how this trend will change the medtech industry.
“I will show this blurring of the boundaries between wellness and healthcare and its positive spillover towards medical devices in cases of wireless cardiac monitoring, wireless neurological monitoring and the preventive care applications of stress management and weight management.”
Before wireless devices can help lowering healthcare costs, psychological and technological hurdles have to be resolved, says Van Hoof. “Consumer electronics wireless coaching devices can only have a positive spillover towards wireless medical devices if this consumerisation does not compromise accuracy. These devices should not be gadgets if one wants to leverage the technology development into the medical care arena.”
“The fitness devices today that look at calorie expenses have a margin of up to a factor of eight. They over- or underestimate the calories you burn up to a factor of eight. For clinical use, this is absolutely out of the question.”
One problem is that many consumers are unwilling to wear devices in locations that best track their vital signs. “If you want to go for consumers, consumers have very different priorities. Glasses, shoes and wristbands are acceptable, but other areas are seen as too invasive. That’s a big challenge if you want to measure something. It’s much easier to collect measurements closer to the heart.”
Wireless medical devices can help prevent diseases only if patients change their behaviour as a result of using them, says Van Hoof. Devices that only track measurements and don’t encourage patients to change them will not succeed.
“We all know that eating hamburgers and not moving enough is not good for your health, but changing your behavior is hard.. It has to be driven by rewards, maybe a little bit of guilt.”
If the medtech industry can overcome these hurdles and create devices that are successful in preventing chronic diseases, the impact on the healthcare system will be significant. Discussions on whether telehealth is cost-effective often fail to take into account the impact patients’ health have on their productivity in the workplace and the larger economy, says Van Hoof.
“There is an impact in lost economic output that is more than two to three times more costly than the treatment. You can invest as much in prevention as you do in treatment, and you still save because you don’t have the loss of economic output.”
From medtechinsider: When Wireless Technology Meets Healthcare, House Happens
From EMDT: Listen to Your Heart