Google’s Prescription Wearable

Wearables Makers Look to Medical Devices Market

Google_health_wearable_lCCS Insight has written several times about the distinction between healthcare and well-being (see Daily Insight: Health or Well-Being). Makers of wearables avoid indications that store-bought consumer electronics can replicate the accuracy and performance of medical-grade devices. The two product categories are distinct, for now.

It’s more than a matter of user expectations: it’s a problem of regulatory pressures and legal protection. However, some top names in wearables are now applying their expertise to medical devices, a different market in terms of regulations, prices, partners, volumes and distribution.

A new wearable developed by the Google X research unit is intended to be prescribed by physicians or used in specific clinical trials rather than purchased by consumers. The medical wrist-worn device will accurately measure and collect pulse rates, heart rhythms, temperatures and environmental variables such as levels of light and noise.

According to Bloomberg, Google will test the product further before applying for regulatory approval in Europe and the US. It stands to formally expand Google’s reach into the medical devices market should it reach fruition.

Google has come a long way from simply providing a Web search engine — big data is a powerful common denominator that justifies entry into seemingly incongruous businesses like medical devices. Established players in the healthcare market would be wise to acknowledge the history of disruptions by Google.

Samsung’s recent partnership with medical devices giant Medtronic provided another signal of an overlap between the two industries (see Daily Insight: Medical Intersection). It’s not a land rush yet, but interest is building.

Apple’s ResearchKit — a framework supporting the capture of crowd-sourced healthcare data — is a key instigator of cross-industry collaboration, supporting further cooperation and development.

Prescribed wearables would be a new product category for Google. The company’s professional-grade health tracker will require some demanding trials, and results will have to be extremely accurate. But what currently appears to be a juxtaposition of terminology will fade: prescriptions and wearables are coming together.

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