When Marcus Welby, M.D. premiered in 1969 with Robert Young in the starring role, the good doctor usually had everything he needed in his trusty doctor bag. And if Dr. Welby couldn’t fix you with his stethoscope and sphygmomanometer, the local hospital was up to the task with its EKG, EEG, and heart rate monitors beepin’ away, and ready cure you before the end of the episode.
Now, the newest Apple Watch features a titanium electrode built into the digital crown that allows the wearer to give himself or herself an electrocardiogram. Devices like the Fitbit let the user track pulse rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Marketing these devices under the “fitness” umbrella was a stroke of genius that capitalizes on the current fitness trend.
Call it the democratization of medical care, if you will. But whatever the name, the medical electronics market is blowing up, and there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling.
A recent report by Research and Markets estimates that the global medical device market will reach $409.5 billion by 2023, expanding at a CAGR of 4.5% from 2018 to 2023. The same group predicts that the world’s market for wearable medical devices will hit $12.1 billion by 2021.
It was inevitable, really. Every part of our lives—registering to vote, making an offer on a house, driving your car—is becoming more automated. If this rate of medical innovation continues, visits to the doctor and hospital may become increasingly rare in the near future.
As a male, this is good news for me. Men are preternaturally predisposed to avoiding the doctor until a wound becomes infected or we’re at death’s door. Because men love gadgets, many of us would be happy to monitor our vital signs, especially if the devices have that necessary “cool” factor.
I really don’t mind wearing my CPAP mask because the technology is so cool. It’s IoT-ready and capable of sending a daily report of my nocturnal breathing activities to my doctor. It uses an encrypted cellular Internet connection, so my neighbors can’t hack into it. When I talk to other CPAP-wearers (primarily at PCB trade shows), we talk smack about who has the coolest CPAP machine like we’re comparing motorcycles, cars, or sailboats.
To read this column, which appeared in the November 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.