The U.S. market for "advanced" wireless patient monitoring systems more than doubled in a four-year period, from $3.9 billion in 2007 to $8.9 billion in 2011 – at an annual rate of nearly 23 percent – according to a new report from Kalorama Information, and the growth should continue at nearly the same pace. The New York-based research firm forecasts that total to expand by 18 percent annually, reaching $20.9 billion by 2016.
"There are several factors driving double-digit growth in this market. These include the aging of the population, increasing healthcare costs, and dwindling healthcare resources which compel organizations to find devices that can help with staff shortages," the report says.
"While there is significant monitoring in some segments, sales will be driven in new technologies as older monitoring equipment is replaced by wireless or remote monitors. Growth will increase over the forecast period as compatibility, privacy and security issues continue to be resolved."
Much growth is coming from hospitals seeking to alleviate overcrowding in their emergency departments and avoid diversions that send patients – and revenue – to other facilities.
"Portable monitoring devices, which increase the ability of the staff to keep track of patients, may reduce some of the need for diversions," Kalorama analyst and report author Melissa Elder says in a company statement. "Additionally, staff shortages are another cause of diversions which may be addressed with the improved efficiency and workflow gained by using more efficient monitoring devices."
Expect to see demand from outside the hospital environment, too. Home-health providers, nursing homes, the military, correctional facilities and first responders will increasingly turn to remote monitoring to manage patient populations, Elder predicts.
Kalorama defines advanced wireless monitoring systems as those that, among other things, incorporate new peripherals, facilitate live audio and video for real-time communication between patients and clinicians, parse collected data to frame information in context of each patient's condition and connect to electronic medical records. The definition also includes "full-service outsourcing" of care to a remote clinician, who then reports back to the patient's attending physician.
Right now, the market for such monitoring technologies is "extremely fragmented," the report says, and most of the players are relatively small, privately held companies. "However, large, well-known, and well-respected companies in healthcare have developed remote patient monitoring systems for the hospital market, aiding faster acceptance by healthcare professionals and administration," Elder writes.
With this in mind, Elder takes an in-depth look at specific telemedicine products from about 20 companies, including medical device heavyweights Medtronic and St. Jude Medical and telemedicine-specific operations such as Second Opinion Telemedicine Solutions and American TeleCare.