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US mobile health market growing rapidly

By: Jeremy Carroll

September 12, 2013

GURNEE, ILL. — Right now 2.8 million Americans use dedicated devices — typically made of various types of plastics — as at-home medical monitoring devices.

And that market is likely going to be a lot bigger, said Dane Waund, global sales development manager at Solvay Specialty Polymers. The market is projected to climb to 9.4 million in 2017.

“This growth rate has our management pretty interested,” Waund said. “And I would guess it would have some of your management interested too. We believe in this marketplace we think it’s going to continue to move.”

Waund spoke about the mobile health care market — dubbed mHealth — during the Society of Plastic Engineers Medical Plastics MiniTec Sept. 9 in Gurnee.

While most health care markets seem to focus on the baby boomer generation, Waund said there is a great interest among younger Americans about gadgets and items to monitor health or fitness.

“There’s a whole segment on the move,” he said. “You are talking about younger folks who are very interested in their own health. They are trying to take control the data and understand what is going on in their bodies. There is a lot of activity going on for wellness.”

While some use dedicated devices — think the Nike FuelBand or separate heart rate monitors — applications on smartphones are a popular way to track health.

“There are possibilities for accessories,” Waund said. “If you think about the magnetic card reader that can be added to cell phones to take credit cards for business, similar accessories are being developed for health care.”

Waund said high performance polymers will dominate the space, with devices often needing the strength of metals, but with the benefit of being lighter.

Training is also a big area, with tablets, e-readers and mp3 devices helping in health care training.

“The idea of using these things that we, or our children, are getting more adept at using … at home for training and learning purposes,” Waund said.

In addition to the in-home market, the mobile health care market is invading clinics and hospitals as well, with plastic leading the way. And in the hospital setting, the plastic needs to withstand constant cleaning.

“If you’ve been in hospitals in the last five years, you’ll notice a lot less charts hanging on doors and a lot more carts with a laptop that is mobile, moving from room to room,” Waund said. “That laptop is being wiped down with an alcohol wipe or something else every time it moves.”