Digital health was prominently displayed at CES this year with lots of floor space dedicated to the industry and a cornucopia of health and fitness-focused wearable devices debuting in Las Vegas.
The declining costs of hardware components, the ubiquity of smartphones and the need for consumers to cut their medical costs is spurring innovation in many areas of digital health. Given these trends, the line between health and fitness devices is blurring. Every consumer electronics company from Sony to LG to Samsung is either getting into the game or thinking about it. But as activity tracking becomes increasingly more commoditized, health device makers need to step-up their offerings and focus on disease management and improving outcomes. Every patient consumer wants simple interfaces that engage them and allows them to gain valuable insights into their health and wellbeing – not achieved by the current cadre of activity sensors.
Health device makers and wellness apps wanting to provide real value for their customers are moving beyond step counting and integrating into connected health services in the cloud. These services use a holistic approach to engaging the provider and patient in managing adherence and compliance and by extension – outcomes. Incorporating physicians, pharmacists, therapists and trainers as part of an integrated “care-team” allows for meaningful patient engagement easing compliance and allowing patients to become “emotionally” accountable for using the app or device as directed by their care-team. For healthcare providers, this same integration made possible by ubiquitous connectivity – allows them to think and engage beyond the practical aspects of care – the exam, laboratory test or simple disease management.
The past year has proved that many pieces are in place (desire, policy, market demand, innovation, investment, etc.) for a radical transformation in healthcare. We’re beginning to see many aspects of our health and wellness reimagined. There is now a growing community of stakeholders who understand that change is not only possible, but inevitable, and best of all are taking action to see those changes come true. The next step in this tectonic shift, is leveraging a higher level of connectivity where data, devices and humans are optimally connected to enable good care decisions – shifting the cost curve and encouraging accountability and adherence beyond what’s offered by today’s consumer health devices.
Too many products look like they were designed by men in Silicon Valley for men in Silicon
Valley, says one wearable tech CEO. The people in real life who wear Nike Fuelbands, Jawbone Ups and Fitbits may not be models, but they tend not to be the people most in need of extra fitness motivation. So how do you get the less-fit masses to join the fitness-tracking bandwagon?
There’s a significant shift going on in how health care is delivered today, due to several key developments:
Payment models that reward providers for patient outcomes rather than traditional, per-procedure methods or number of visits;
The imposition of penalties for hospital readmissions; and
The rapid adoption of smartphone and sensor technologies.
Health sensing technologies, data analytics and visualization tools enable continuous monitoring and assessment of patients anywhere at any time. These technologies have the power to decentralize health care by challenging traditional delivery systems currently centered around hospitals, clinics and physician offices. Such technology engages patients and caregivers by providing them with the most timely, actionable and relevant data at point-of-patient – the home, office or wherever the patient is located.
‘Consumerization’ is happening in the healthcare market – an ongoing trend of turning patients into consumers. Patients are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to access and manage healthcare information from anywhere at any time. These devices enable them to take a more active role in their care experience and empower them to choose their own care alternatives.