Wireless technology

Wireless technologies to play increasingly central role in healthcare

9 March 2006

London. The nascent European wearable wireless patient monitoring markets are likely to see rapid growth over the next four to five years. Heightened awareness about the benefits of remote monitoring combined with the growing popularity of homecare is likely to boost the uptake of wearable wireless patient monitoring systems. Moreover, technological developments that will support improved patient flexibility while offering substantial cost savings to healthcare authorities are likely to support these trends.

The expanded adoption of remote monitoring and homecare in the healthcare environment is giving a fillip to enabling technologies such as wearable patient monitoring systems. Based on patient area networks, wearable patient monitoring platforms are ideally suited to facilitating flexible treatment regimes. Such technologies are also providing impetus to the transition of European healthcare systems towards expanded use of homecare.

The development of wearable wireless monitoring systems has significantly improved patient mobility. Wearable wireless sensor networks have the advantage of being less restrictive in terms of the movement of patients than traditional telemetry systems. This has helped accelerate the patient recovery process.

At the same time, such technology is also encouraging expanded patient flows from hospitals to homecare settings. This, in turn, is resulting in substantial cost savings for healthcare facilities.

"In addition to enhancing patient comfort, speeding the recovery process and supporting greater patient flows to cost-effective homecare settings, wireless systems are also helping avoid the very high costs involved in the laying of wires and cables in hospitals," says Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Aarati Ajay. "The return on investment is higher than that provided by wired systems and with advancements in wireless technology, the systems are likely to reach higher standards of sophistication."

As a technology that helps reduce the tremendous cost burdens on hospital authorities, wireless networking has been widely adopted by healthcare facilities across Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Technological advances that enable superior product development will further bolster uptake levels.

For instance, technological progress is likely to assuage concerns over the reliability of vital signs data transmitted over shared wireless networks. The ability of sophisticated wireless wearable sensor networks to ensure the safety and integrity of such data is set to drive adoption levels over the next 5-7 years, with growth opportunities arising in hospital as well as homecare settings.

"While significant progress has been made, the technologies that have been considered for the development of these wearable devices are still facing minor technical challenges," cautions Ms. Ajay. "There are several competing technology platforms that are being tested to create unique patient area networks."

Apart from technology issues, concerns also linger about regulatory challenges and the high outlays involved in achieving cost-benefit data. The process of accumulating cost-benefit data needed in order to receive regulatory approvals is both lengthy and extremely expensive. In addition, manufacturers have to present sufficient clinical data to medical practitioners to convince them of the value of novel devices. Accordingly, only large and established market participants can attempt to introduce emerging technologies in the market.

"At this stage where the market needs to be developed, vendors need to come together and promote cooperation over competition," concludes Ms. Ajay. "There needs to be a consensus with regards to the wireless models required, interoperability issues and security standards that should be used in these devices."

For further information contact Radhika Menon Theodore, Corporate Communications, at email: rmtheodore@frost.com or visit  http://patientmonitoring.frost.com 

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