Updated: Oct 9, 2021
In medicine and the healthcare and medical device industries, different conditions, specialisms, products, and companies alike are often organized around specific therapeutic areas. Whilst this is an excellent and efficient way to enable good specialization, there are also cases where a more general approach to patient monitoring is required.
For a startup or other technology player with ambitions to create a new healthcare or wellness device, decisions need to be made early in the process about which route to take.
Addressing specific issues within a particular therapeutic area can be extremely valuable but also can come with technical and regulatory challenges, higher risk, and a smaller population of patients in the end.
Taking a more general approach, perhaps with a twist on a monitoring technique that is more mature, can have a much larger population of potential users but may have less technology differentiation and much more competition.
Historically, competitive device ecosystems have been separated along these lines, aligning with different medical specialisms and following regulatory requirements and reimbursement categories; whilst there may be some standard components and features across the broader ecosystem, patient needs differ based on the underlying condition of the product landscape reflects this.
Examples of a comparison between these two approaches are covered in IDTechEx's report on Electronic Skin Patches. It contains dedicated chapters on diabetes management, cardiovascular diseases, wound care, and other specific therapeutic areas in which markets for skin patches as medical devices have developed.
Alongside these chapters by therapeutic area, the report also has chapters on "general" patient monitoring, separated further into examples of different inpatient and outpatient monitoring types, with examples on both sides of the line between wellness and healthcare.
These products are used to monitor the patient's general health, including various combinations of vital signs (heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, blood pressure) and other common metrics. When IDTechEx first published a report on the market for electronic skin patches five years ago, these were relatively limited chapters, populated by groups of smaller companies doing excellent work at a limited scale to prove efficacy for these systems.
By 2021, this section has expanded significantly, including some of the most exciting and disruptive news from the last year, prominent acquisitions, many product launches, and significant commercial momentum.
Two key trends are driving this shift towards more general patient monitoring solutions, as follows:
1. Value-Based Care
This involves shifting from fee-for-service (or "volume-based care") models to a results-based approach emphasizing quality of service and patient experience. General vital signs monitors can struggle to be effective in fee-for-service only models, as anomalies may only be detected in a small number of patients, so they can seem less effective when assessed as a one-off procedure. Here, their value may only emerge at times of acute medical needs, such as for hospital inpatients where the condition requires it or during other periodic (but infrequent) general health checks.