Bluetooth, Ant+ Self-Monitoring to Grow Faster Than Managed Telehealth: Report

Consumers are more likely to use Bluetooth and Ant+ to track their health themselves than doctors that monitor patient vital signs remotely, according to a report by IMS Research.

Bluetooth and Ant+ use will grow faster among consumers than managed telehealth services, according to new findings from IMS Research.

Devices such as the latest Apple iPad incorporate Bluetooth low-energy technology, allowing people to track data such as heart rate, speed and elevation during a workout. They can transmit info from glucometers and fitness sensors to the iPad, which sends the data to a cloud platform like HealthVault or Qualcomm 2net.

Ant+ is ultralow-power 2.4GHz wireless technology that connects sensors on fitness or medical devices to applications on smartphones.

IMS Research announced its findings May 22 and produced a report, "Wireless Opportunities in Health and Wellness Monitoring€”2012 Edition," on the data in March.

During the next five years, more than 50 million wireless health monitoring devices will ship for consumer monitoring applications, according to IMS.

In addition, consumer-purchased medical devices, such as glucometers and fitness sensors, will encompass at least 80 percent of wireless-enabled consumer medical devices by 2016, the firm reported. Personal health portals, such as Microsoft HealthVault, allow consumers to monitor and compile data from these devices themselves. Complete systems such as Entra Health Systems' MyGlucoHealth Network offer a Bluetooth glucometer as well as a cloud portal.

Managed telehealth involves sending patient data to cloud platforms monitored by medical professionals and holding online consultations with physicians. The U.S. Veteran's Health Administration has deployed managed telehealth technology to about 50,000 patients, IMS reported. The VA uses American Well's Online Care platform, which consists of two-way video, secure text chat or voice sessions.

Despite consumer self-monitoring outpacing managed telehealth, IMS still projects these enterprise services to grow. The growth rate for use of wireless devices in managed telehealth platforms will increase from 5 percent a year in 2011 to 20 percent a year by 2016, according to IMS.

Managed telehealth systems are behind consumer wireless technology due to the unwillingness of some health providers to move past trials.

Telehealth trials by physicians are being held back by a lack of reimbursement, according to Phillip Maddocks, market analyst at IMS.

"One of the issues with telehealth systems and mass rollout is who pays for it, and this is going to be a problem over the next few years," Maddocks told eWEEK in an email. "This is not the case with self-monitoring as the consumers are responsible for buying their own devices." Strict security and privacy regulations on medical data storage are also a limiting factor in telehealth growth, according to Maddocks.

A large numbers of mobile apps on the market for smartphones and tablets are leading to projected high use of self-monitoring, IMS reported.

"The increase in consumer familiarity with mobile applications as well as an increased awareness of the importance of monitoring health levels is driving the market for connected health devices," Lisa Arrowsmith, senior analyst at IMS Research, said in a statement. "Many consumers already utilize smartphone apps to track their own health and fitness results with devices such as activity monitors and heart-rate monitors."

Devices such as blood pressure monitors allow patients to track and upload data in real time from smartphones and tablets, Arrowsmith noted.

The Americas have a higher number of self-monitoring wireless devices, compared with Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), as well as the Asia-Pacific region, said Maddocks.

With fewer regulations and shorter design cycles in EMEA, however, this region offers the biggest opportunity for wireless adoption in health care, said Maddocks.

Beyond 2016, wireless growth in health care could shift to the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

"This is due to countries such as Japan who have government-backed sponsorship of medical devices in addition to commercial offerings for wireless medical solutions," said Maddocks.