Flex, printed & organic electronics could save money in healthcare

August 12, 2012 — Emerging technologies in printed, flexible, and organic (PFO) electronics are poised to reduce costs in the $300 billion global medical device market as governments, insurers and patients seek to bring down healthcare costs, according to Lux Research.

Heavy regulation and reimbursement challenges create high barriers to entry for medical devices, creating more near-term opportunity for flexible, printed, and organic electronics in consumer-driven applications. Conductive textiles, heart rate sensors, and respiration sensors create attractive devices for the athletic and neonatal markets, as athletes looking for an edge and anxious parents drive demand.

“The value proposition of printed, flexible, and organic electronics varies across technologies, application, and markets. While each of the three provides its own selling point, they substantially overlap, opening up exciting new options,” said Jonathan Melnick, Lux research analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Keeping the Doctor Away: The Opportunities for Emerging Electronics in Healthcare.”

“Flexible electronics can be integrated devices that can be worn continuously with little discomfort from new products like vital-sign-monitoring athletic apparel to sensors for ‘mobile health’ and many of these devices will be made through the printing of organic materials,” he added.

Lifestyle sensors are a good technical value fit for many markets, but not one stand-out technology or market is seen to drive adoption. Single-sensor single-market devices are unlikely to succeed. The requirements of the most-likely markets — athletics and military — are similar, so that multi-sensor, multi-market devices may be a feasible way to capture this broad opportunity.

There’s high technology value for heart rate sensors, but ECG and blood pressure lag. Heart rate sensors can be integrated with other sensors, enabling low cost, and consumer-digestible information. However, emerging ECG and blood pressure sensors could not stand up to incumbent solutions due to the relatively high cost of emerging solutions and the lack of an appropriate market fit for the performance advantages of printed, flexible, and organic electronics.

Chronic glucose monitoring is the most valuable application of all metabolic sensors, with high therapeutic value and comfort enablement.

Neonatal and athletics could make use of conductive textiles, but chronic disease offers the broadest opportunity. Neonatal and athletics would benefit from the comfort values of conductive textiles, as athletes require gear that does not interfere with workouts and parents will pay for their babies’ comfort. In addition, the small amount of materials needed for neonatal applications creates lower cost pressures. Chronic disease is the most consistent market for conductive textiles, where high comfort value is needed due to the pervasive nature of the disease in a patient’s life.

Lux Research analysts assessed the emerging sensor, treatment, and electrode technologies across eight markets to uncover substantial business opportunities for printed, flexible, and organic electronics in healthcare.

The report, “Keeping the Doctor Away: The Opportunities for Emerging Electronics in Healthcare,” is part of the Lux Research Printed, Flexible, and Organic Electronics Intelligence service. Lux Research provides strategic advice and on-going intelligence for emerging technologies. Visit www.luxresearchinc.com for more information.


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