Covid-19 pandemic may give wearables necessary push to become healthcare mainstays

GlobalData Healthcare 22 September 2020 (Last Updated September 22nd, 2020 09:27)

Covid-19 pandemic may give wearables necessary push to become healthcare mainstays

Wearables such as the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch have the potential to become a staple in post-Covid-19 treatment models due to their ability to collect, track and communicate a variety of health statistics. Due to the global pandemic forcing a shift to remote care and telehealth options, along with increasing technological capabilities and dropping prices for high-end wearables, this market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

The interest in wearables has increased considerably since the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a shift away from traditional face-to-face care options towards remote models of patient care. Wearables include a variety of health trackers such as electrocardiogram (ECG), skin temperature and electrodermal activity (EDA) sensors that enable them to track various health-related statistics in real time. This information can then be sent via the internet to a patient’s primary physician, keeping them informed and able to make accurate decisions about treatment without seeing the patient in-person. The real-time data is especially useful for high-risk patients with conditions that need to be continually monitored.

Wearables’ ability to be used as health monitoring devices has improved significantly in recent years and shows no signs of slowing. ECG sensors are now common among high-end models, and the recently unveiled Apple Watch Series 6 can measure blood-oxygen saturation. Device manufacturers are also expanding how the collected data can be used. For example, Fitbit is currently exploring whether the new Fitbit Sense can use the data it collects to detect Covid-19 cases early. Similarly, Apple and its partners are exploring whether data from their wearables can be used to better manage asthma, among other things.

This technological innovation has been followed by declining prices, which is likely due to a combination of increased competition and a maturing of the manufacturing process. For example, the Apple Watch is now on its sixth iteration. These lowered prices have made high-end wearable models with health tracking capabilities more affordable for the average consumer. This has been especially convenient during the pandemic, which has turned patients towards telehealth and remote care options. Consumers may be more willing to use remote patient care now than prior to the pandemic.

All of these factors have combined to augment the growth of the wearables market. GlobalData expects the global wearables market to grow by 137% to a value of $64bn in 2024. Major firms are signalling their confidence in this market with significant investments. For example, Google is currently in the process of acquiring Fitbit for $2.1bn and awaiting approval from regulators. The pandemic may have been the push that consumers and physicians needed to integrate wearables into the modern healthcare landscape.