June 2016

Wearable technology: A prescription for an improved patient experience

Consumer interest in wearable technology is increasing across the board with the medical sector as no exception. Wearable medical devices are on trend and in demand. Technology and device capabilities are continually advancing, and medical device manufacturers are creating new designs intended to streamline the shape of medical devices in an effort to improve the patient experience. With these functional and aesthetic advancements, the materials used to make the devices need to keep pace.

Covestro is in tune with the needs of the medical market, offering Makroblend® M525 polycarbonate + polyester (PC+PBT) blend resin tailored for use in wearable medical devices. This material grade exhibits excellent toughness, moldability, dimensional stability and has outstanding chemical resistance. It satisfies the testing requirements of ISO 10993-5 (Cytotoxicity) and ISO 10993-10 (Irritation and Sensitization) for skin contact biocompatibility. There are numerous application areas for Makroblend® PC+PBT resins and other rigid plastics in medical wearables. The examples below provide a good picture of the direction the wearable medical devices trend is heading.

Drug Delivery

A prominent application area for medical wearables is drug delivery. While injectors that patients can self-administer have become standard for use with most drugs, the advancing development of biologics has left many viscous drugs without a delivery method. Subcutaneous injections using current injectors can generally only administer up to a 1 mL dose. A wearable injector with a larger cartridge would enable delivery of higher volumes of a drug which has been diluted to a less viscous solution and is injected into the patient over a longer time period.(1)

Also, closed-loop control of levels of components in the blood stream - for example, glucose - allows continuous monitoring and dosing. Such devices satisfy patient desires for discreet devices and convenience in drug administration. Other drugs may require continuous delivery, such as those used to prevent post-chemotherapy infections and those used to control heart conditions where heart pumping efficiency puts the patient at risk.

Patient Movement Sensors

Patient movement sensors provide another good opportunity to introduce medical wearables. One such example is the device currently on the market targeted at patients requiring lower back therapy.(2) A device component is attached to the patient’s back, and smart sensors are able to store data which can then be accessed through a special app. The system is used like a video game and tracks the specialized exercises or movements that the patient performs.

Another application dealing with patient movement is a device for patients with limited mobility. It’s believed that inactivity and constant sitting can lead to skin ulcers. A medical wearable device is helping health care providers combat this problem. The device alerts a person when s/he should shift positions. The device’s sensor monitors the person’s position and guides him or her how to properly turn. A signal is sent to a health care provider if the person is moving improperly or needs assistance to move in the correct manner. This device is currently for use in formal health care settings, such as assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Home-use models could be commercialized in the near future.

These examples just skim the surface of what is possible with wearables in the medical field. As technologies advance, so will the opportunities for wearable medical devices to simplify medical management and improve patient experience.

(1) DRG article, March 9, 2015
(2) Wearable Technologies, by Spela Kosir; April 15, 2015

Download Brochure: Polymers and high performance plastics for Wearable Devices

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