Healthcare Sensor Innovations 2019 was a conference and table-top exhibition organized by IDTechEx, a market intelligence and events company. The event was held over 25th to 26th September 2019 in Cambridge, United Kingdom and attracted over 185 delegates from over 23 countries.
Forty speakers from the healthcare, electronics, and materials industries shared their progress in wearables and sensors for point-of-care diagnostics and continuous monitoring. IDTechEx technology analysts Dr Nadia Tsao and Dr Ivan De Backer explore the technology developments and market trends presented at Healthcare Sensor Innovations 2019.
Printed electronics, and the benefits of their integration into healthcare devices, were a central theme at Healthcare Sensor Innovations 2019. Electronics can be printed on a variety of materials and surfaces including plastic, textile, paper and foil to generate robust and durable medical device components. This enables electronic functionality to be added to places which are not possible using rigid electronics.
A crucial advantage of printed electronics, which was mentioned repeatedly throughout the conference, is that they enable the development of new form factors for medical sensors. These sensors now can be flexible, foldable, stretchable and transparent, which considerably widens their applications.
The medical industry currently represents the biggest opportunity for wearable technology. IDTechEx forecasts that the market for medical wearables over the coming five years will grow faster than the overall wearable technology market. There are various uses for wearables in the healthcare space, including diagnostics, monitoring, and consumer health.
Wearables enable remote patient monitoring (RPM), which is becoming a valuable tool in increasing convenience to patients and reducing treatment costs. In addition to providing more sensitive methods to tracking patients and disease progression, these technology innovations will keep people in their homes for longer and help reduce burdens on the healthcare system.
Healthcare Sensor Innovations 2019 keynote speakers highlighted the importance of not only developing new healthcare sensors, but also in creating new ways to analyze and interpret the streams of data being collected.
While there is a swathe of health-related parameters that can be measured using medical wearables, the value of each measurement must be weighed against the increased complexity it may bring to the patient or clinical workflow. Moreover, the data measured must be verified and validated before implementation of the technology on a mass scale.
Finally, care must be taken in the misinterpretation of data that can lead to incorrect diagnostics and treatments.
The need for sensors in wearables to be stretchable was unanimously acknowledged among the speakers and exhibitors at Healthcare Sensor Innovations 2019. Patient comfort must be prioritized and thus sensor systems must be unobtrusive to the patient. Hence, wearable sensors should come in flexible and thin form factors, particularly in the case of electronic skin patches and smart clothing.
But even when patients declare that they are willing to use a technology, adherence to their monitoring may still be low. Thus, devices must be easy to use and familiar to the patient for maximum efficacy.
Innovations in wearables and sensors have the potential to bring much needed help to patients suffering from chronic diseases. Throughout the 2 days of Healthcare Sensor Innovations 2019, speakers discussed their work in bringing sensors to better quantify disease symptoms in patients and help predict and prevent acute episodes.
The former is particularly important in disease areas such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, where metrics of disease progression rely on patient perception, rather than an objective measurement. Moreover, in highly personalized conditions such as asthma and irritable bowel syndrome, sensors can help patients to understand their personal triggers and prevent future episodes.
The next Healthcare Sensor Innovations conference will be held 16th to 19th March 2020 in San Jose, CA, USA.