Companies developing products in the remote patient monitoring space received $42 million in venture funding in the first quarter of 2013, on par with the $44 million in funding given to companies developing hospital administration technology, according to an analysis by Rock Health, an incubator for healthcare digital start-ups. Funding in the remote monitoring market during the first quarter was led by Sotera, which received $15 million.
“Remote monitoring is of intense interest,” says Malay Gandhi, Rock Health's chief strategy officer.
A Deloitte study published in 2012 estimates that the market for all wireless health monitoring devices in the U.S. will hit $22 billion by 2015, compared with the current $7 billion market. An increasingly engaged patient population, an aging baby boomer population and the evolution of payment models that reward better patient outcomes are expected to drive adoption of these technologies.
ABI Research predicts that 5 million disposable sensors will enter the market during the next five years, according to a report released this month.
GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare, as well as the FCC in its regulatory documents, say that MBAN technology will be low-cost and will reduce costs for the broader healthcare system. An FCC official says the agency's assessment of cost comes from background provided by the companies that advocated for the spectrum allocation.
“We are also persuaded that the ready availability of chipsets and technology that can be applied to this band will promote quick development of low-cost MBAN equipment,” according to an FCC report released last year. “This, in turn, will reduce developmental expenses, encourage multiple parties to develop MBAN applications, and will promote the widespread use of beneficial MBAN technologies. Such deployment will reduce healthcare expenses, improve the quality of patient care, and could ultimately save lives.”
The high volume of the monitoring market, the disposable nature likely for many products and the success that manufacturers have already had in developing low-power, low-cost chips in other sectors are expected to keep the costs of the sensor-based MBAN technologies low.
“We want to make sure it's affordable and productive for our customers to leverage the technology because if it doesn't fit the cost model and it doesn't fit the workflow, it still won't be adopted,” GE's Giordano says.
Topol says that while development of sensors is considered inexpensive, the introduction of new medical technology usually comes with a higher price tag. “Every time there's been new technology in medicine, it's been associated with higher costs,” he says. “We're not at a point in our world where that can be tolerated.”
TAKEAWAY: The market for wireless technologies in healthcare is projected to explode, but not all manufacturers are sold on MBANs.
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