The Internet of Medical Things presents a range of new opportunities for medical businesses and entrepreneurs, claims Mark Dougan, Frost and Sullivan's Consulting Director for Asia-Pacific.
Imagine a future of social media networks that encourage you and your loved ones to watch your health.
"Your friends could be sent information that you have a high cholesterol level and you've been drinking too much recently. Then if they are real friends they can make sure you don't touch the booze and you'll eat less fatty or sugary foods."
This was one of the business opportunities in the future Internet of Medical Things market – estimated to be worth $20 billion by the beginning of next decade – laid out by Mr Dougan for businesses in the healthcare sector at the recent Australian Healthcare Week conference in Sydney.
"One of the mega challenges we all face is the rapidly increasing cost of healthcare, and we believe there are some disruptive technologies that can help us face that challenge."
In the very near future, wearable devices will be able to track every aspect of health and fitness and – when combined with artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Medical Things – there are many opportunities for businesses and practitioners throughout the medical industry.
"The big opportunities we see are in chronic disease management – areas like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, sleep disorders – which is a very big market globally.
"We see a real ramp-up in companies offering wearable devices or offering some sort of hardware or software. Wherever you look, there's a start-up offering some application addressing a therapeutic area or an acute condition.
"There are other applications as well, which are perhaps not so large in their market opportunity. Areas like neuro and mental health applications, paediatrics, pain management applications and so on. There's really a broad range of opportunities.
"We're moving from healthcare being delivered from centralised facilities – such as hospitals and clinics – to a much more decentralised model, where healthcare can be delivered at any place," continued Mr Dougan. "The industry is moving from episodic care towards more holistic care."
That shift is being driven largely by wearables and implants, communicating with home and community devices, he said. He laid out the major themes that he believes will drive medical technologies in coming years, starting with FDA-approved and clinician-prescribed medical-grade wearables: "We see them being much more widely deployed going forward."
Clinical wearables can measure anything from balance to sleep. "Almost every parameter of the human body can be measured," he pointed out. "The use of these devices to measure a condition enables early intervention. It enables early diagnosis, preventative diagnostics and better long-term care."
Mr Dougan did warn that there are risks for businesses in the Internet of Medical Things, and cited six common points of failure — ranging from products beings too complex and not interoperable, through to misdirected business models.
The biggest risk to businesses, though, is losing the confidence of practitioners and users through poor security, inaccurate readings or simply targeting the wrong problem or patient.
"I think if you're interested in launching devices or services you need to think about a number of things," Dougan advised. "How does your device or solution integrate primary and home-based care; who do you need to partner with; how effectively can you reach the end patient; what's your business model; and finally, how can you as an organisation transform and disrupt how healthcare is delivered."
This content was produced by The Australian Financial Review in commercial partnership with CommBank.