Report into diagnostic wearables points to growing demand

2 mins read

Molex has released the findings of a global survey of design engineering stakeholders that looked to identify market drivers that are affecting the development of diagnostic wearables.

These are devices that enable patients, caregivers and consumers to monitor and analyse data regarding an individual’s health status.

According to the survey, respondents have expectations for consumer use and innovation in wearables for sport and fitness, wellness and medical-monitoring applications.

However, the survey also found that among those who responded that regulatory, technology and adoption barriers still needed to be cleared in order to drive and support further advancements of increasingly connected, smaller and more powerful health, fitness and medical-monitoring wearables.

The survey found what Tyson Masar, the company’s global director of medical, called, “An interesting convergence taking place across the diagnostic wearables landscape as medical device companies and tech innovators strive to bring game-changing products to market.

“Emerging applications dictate new requirements, which is why design engineers must understand the needs of all stakeholders and how they affect decisions across the entire product lifecycle.”

The report - Diagnostic Wearables: The Future of Medical Monitoring global survey in August 2022 – polled 603 qualified individuals in design engineering roles with responsibility for diagnostic wearables.

The report found that diagnostic wearables were being encouraged by a variety of parties - led by patients and consumers (61%), doctors and other medical professionals (47%) along with in-home caregivers (44%).

However, the survey also found that insurance providers, some doctors and other medical professionals, as well as medical technicians, were hesitant or objected to increased use.

Within the next five years, however, design engineers report high expectations for direct consumer adoption of devices to support obesity control (61%), posture sensing and correction (59%), breath-based disease detection (51%), reproductive health monitoring (50%) and infectious disease monitoring (49%).

Among some of the examples sighted for new medical wearables expected to be available within five years were devices for tracking diabetes, sleep monitoring, gait analysis, mobile CT scanning, genetic abnormalities and vision deterioration.

There’s plenty of optimism around the sector, but all the participants identified a number of design challenges, such as consumer expectations for ease of use (42%), the need for simple user interfaces and complete documentation (41%), design difficulties in uncontrolled homecare settings (40%) and complexity of regulatory approval processes (34%).

Areas that have been impeding design processes include cost (38%), durability (37%), power (35%), miniaturisation (33%), data capture (30%) and connectivity (30%).

In fact, three quarters of those polled report that connectivity constraints impact current abilities to collect relevant data for tracking and analysing health.

According to those polled, the top five impediments to designing smaller wearables range from miniaturising the sensing elements (40%) and making hardware (e.g., connectors) smaller (39%) to power management (32%), signal quality (29%) and thermal management (22%). The top three most reported innovations in materials include biocompatibility, published functional and reliability data for emerging materials, as well as real-world “wear test” simulations.

Overall, respondents were bullish about the potential for harvesting patient energy (e.g., body heat, sweat, heartbeat, movement, etc.) to power wearable functionality. While acknowledging time and innovation are required to propel this area forward, respondents cited movement (49%), body heat (35%) and sweat (13%) as the most viable sources for energy harvesting.

According to 63% of those surveyed, strong collaboration among industry, government and academic groups is expected to drive the most innovations in diagnostic wearables.

While nearly three quarters of respondents from China ranked group collaboration highest in importance, results from participants in the United Kingdom (52%), France (57%) and Germany (59%) were more closely aligned with participants from the U.S. (61%).