OTC hearing aids. Neurotech. Mental health funding.
Hearing Is Believing
A seemingly small but important bill was passed by the Senate a couple of weeks ago. The “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017” allows hearing aid makers to sell directly to consumers if they meet FDA requirements, eliminating the need for a visit to the doctor. The significance is clear in this paragraph:
It also requires the FDA to write regulations ensuring that this new category of OTC hearing aids meets the same high standards for safety, consumer labeling and manufacturing protections as all medical devices, providing consumers the option of an FDA-regulated device at lower cost.
Medical device makers must be watching this closely because it does a few specific and important things:
The FDA is creating a tier of direct-to-consumer medical grade products for hearing aids and a vetting process for low-risk devices.
It creates a cost competitive market for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
They are removing the doctor from the equation – meaning the purchasing decision is made solely by the patient.
We’ve talked about how the consumerization of healthcare is giving more power to patients in past research, and this is a natural extension into medical grade devices. If more medical devices are sold directly to consumers, it means that brand and consumer experience become a bigger and bigger priority.
It’s probably no coincidence then that Apple is eyeing this area with their Cochlear partnership to make an iPhone compatible hearing aid. As more med devices become connected, having a software component becomes critical to the patient experience and Apple is positioning itself as a platform and software provider for med devices. We’ve talked about other tech + medical device partnerships in our previous research briefing.
‘Phony’ Med Devices
It’s not just standalone medical devices that Apple is thinking about. As the phone becomes a more powerful tool, it has the ability to become a diagnostic device itself. We caught a recent Apple patent which uses your phone to monitor changes in your blood composition. And Apple isn’t the only tech giant that believes the phone is a medical device. This week Google also bought Senosis, a company that does something very similar.
Low friction biomarker monitoring without a separate device could potentially be a game changer – giving more people easy access to monitor their health continuously and a personal health record in your hand.