Wearable devices are expected to represent the next wave of m-health solutions and will potentially act as the gateway to the connected health world.

The number of sensors and wearable devices that will be shipped globally will increase drastically over the next three to four years, reaching a market value of almost $40-billion by 2018.

Frost & Sullivan will present some of the key requirements in the establishment of a connected healthcare ecosystem at the 5th annual Growth Innovation Leadership (GIL) 2015: Africa Congress in Cape Town on 20 August.

“Remote monitoring of chronic conditions has been around for some time and has shown real value in the management of chronic disease,” says Frost & Sullivan programme manager for healthcare in Africa, Dr Etienne van Wyk. “The overlap that has been created with m-health, and the development and miniaturisation of sensors, has led to the immense commercial potential of wearable devices as well as hosted cloud services going forward.”

With aging populations and the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, the need to positively influence and monitor lifestyle decisions is becoming increasingly important in order to prevent major health events and control spiralling healthcare costs.

However, there have been high expectations of the value that can potentially be unlocked through the use of mobile health (m-health) solutions in the past, and the restraints to the mainstream adoption of technology in healthcare should be well understood. In Africa, m-health has been aggressively pursued as a way of increasing the level of healthcare education, treatment adherence and to increase access to basic healthcare services.

“A key challenge is that full alignment between governments and participating organisations is still required,” says Van Wyk. “Added to this, is the limited business case for the use of m-health. This seems to restrain the incorporation of m-health solutions into the budgets of health ministries.”

While there are many platforms being created by IT vendors, funders, providers and device manufacturers, it only adds to an already highly fragmented industry. Early movers in the development of healthcare cloud infrastructure, and those providing adequate security, will experience significant opportunity.

“Taking a collaborative approach to designing this new connected healthcare architecture will however be critical,” Van Wyk says.

Ultimately, wearable devices need to become a logical extension of the growing global mega-trend to improve health and wellness on a personal level. Only then, together with a trusted and secure platform, will mainstream adoption of mHealth take place and the next evolution of healthcare begin.