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Printed, Flexible, and Organic Electronics Cut Costs in $300 Billion Medical Devices Market

Lux Research

These technologies can raise quality of healthcare and create new products for the emerging lifestyle market, says Lux Research

Boston, MA – July 24, 2012 — Emerging technologies in printed, flexible, and organic electronics are poised to impact 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 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.”

“For example, 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.

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. Among their findings:

  • Lifestyle sensors need multi-sensor devices. The lifestyle sensor scores were mostly clustered in the middle, meaning that there is a good technical value fit for many markets, but not one stand-out technology or market to drive adoption. Single-sensor single-market devices are unlikely to succeed. The requirements of the best-scoring 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 scored highest due to its integration with other sensors, 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. 

  • Glucose is the clear winner for chronic care. Chronic glucose monitoring scored highest of all metabolic sensors, with its strong score due to high therapeutic value and comfort scores, as diabetes patients must closely monitor their blood sugar and look to no longer prick their fingers daily.

  • Neonatal and athletics fit conductive textiles, but chronic disease offers the broadest opportunity. Neonatal and athletics score highly for their comfort values 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. While it does not score highest in any one electrode category, chronic disease is the most consistent market, where high comfort value scores are a result of the pervasive nature of the disease in a patient’s life.

The report, titled “Keeping the Doctor Away: The Opportunities for Emerging Electronics in Healthcare,” is part of the Lux Research Printed, Flexible, and Organic Electronics Intelligence service.