Losing the wires: patient monitoring via electronic skin patches
By James Hayward, senior technology analyst, IDTechExElectronics Medical Supply Chain skin patches skin patches
There are many wearable technology products that focus on getting the user moving. Whether this is achieving those 10,000 steps per day, or getting up from the sofa to enjoy immersive gaming in virtual reality, achieving mobility is a recurring theme. Nowhere is this more relevant than in inpatient monitoring in a clinical setting. Many traditional methods for monitoring vital signs and other critical metrics during care can force the patient to remain sedentary. This causes significant complications, from the formation of pressure ulcers and bedsores to the fundamental risk factors and economic costs with keeping patients in the ward for longer periods of time.
One solution to this is to lower the threshold at which patients can be allowed greater freedom of motion. There are several companies involved in the development and deployment of ambulatory versions of patient monitoring devices for use within hospitals. The IDTechEx report covers this area in a dedicated chapter looking at wireless inpatient monitoring, mentioning activity and updates from prominent companies such as Sensium, VitalConnect, Isansys, Leaf Healthcare and more. The report discusses this topic alongside related areas such as ambulatory cardiac monitoring (e.g. mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT), Holter monitoring, event monitoring, etc.), fever detection using temperature sensors and other potential medical uses for ambulatory monitoring via skin patches (e.g. pre-surgery monitoring, clinical trials, etc.).
Deployment of these systems relies on the use of low power sensors, efficient energy storage techniques and new standards in data communication to offer reliable, accurate, practical platforms. However, whilst the efficacy of these options is increasingly demonstrated, the practical challenges of getting these systems deployed are significant. Such challenges include the deployment of the system (often alongside archaic incumbents), the management of any errors or anomalies, the education of healthcare staff and achieving patient compliance. As companies overcome these challenges and increasingly demonstrate the efficacy of these platforms, their adoption will become more common.
However, the theme of moving to ambulatory monitoring is broader. In the report on electronic skin patches, IDTechEx surveyed 95 different case studies involving the commercialization of electronic skin patches. This survey saw many companies following a cycle between application and technology development, developing different sensing platforms on skin patches and exploring potential applications. This included many different health monitors, including for sweat sensing, motion, electrodes, temperature and more. As part of this assessment, IDTechEx assessed different factors which could contribute to commercial progress, including the end use of the products, the device form factor and the focus on target markets. For example, one hypothesis was that companies with greater commercial maturity would likely have a tighter application focus. The conclusion was a relatively weak positive correlation between qualitative assessments made for “commercial progress” and “application focus”, with the results as shown.
The report provides the most authoritative view of the commercialization of electronic skin patch products. With coverage across 26 application areas, a survey of 95 different commercialization case studies, historic market data and market forecasts to 2028, it is the most comprehensive study compiled for this emerging product area. It reveals significant opportunity, with a forecast for total annual revenues in electronic skin patches to reach over $10bn per year by 2023, and approaching $15bn per year by 2028.