MedTech Losers of 2013: Wearables

Posted in Mobile Health by Shana Leonard on December 17, 2013

                 Samsung Galaxy Gear

While global sales of wearables nearly tripled between 2011 and 2012, the vast majority of focus in this area has been on smartwatches and wearable activity trackers (usually wristbands). Rather than the grand vision of tools for managing chronic conditions and improving patient outcomes for those who need a lifestyle change, we've seen a lot of products geared toward fitness enthusiasts. Most critics universally agree that the first-generation of products like the Jawbone, Fitbit, and others were, at worst, inaccurate and problematic, and, at best, more or less the same as their competitors. How many novel ways are there to track heart rate, sleep, and steps? The products have gotten so difficult to distinguish that in its review of the Fitbit Force Gizmodo called it, “A Health Tracker You'd Actually Keep Wearing."

Smartwatches like the Pebble or the Samsung Galaxy Gear, propose to take things one step further by linking and interfacing with your phone, but so far have only added a new layer of convenience to texting and answering calls (things that were not incredibly inconvenient to begin with). What's more, there is still no data on long-term adoption and usage of these devices. Is a wearable fitness band a true lifestyle change or is it just cool enough to tide you over until the next hot gadget comes along? Newer versions of many trackers have proponents feeling more optimistic about the era of “wearables 2.0” but the impact has yet to be seen. This is not to say that wearables are going away entirely - smaller and more flexible sensors, for example, are promising to have a big impact in patient monitoring and outcomes. However, as of 2013, we're still waiting for wearables to make a big splash for patient-consumer health and outcomes and shift focus toward giving patients more than the same old data streams. --Chris Wiltz


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