The Wearables-era is coming…and it’s sure to be huge. How huge? The personal-wearable technology market is expected to exceed $6 billion by 2016. Increasingly, however, this growth will be driven not by consumer-demand for entertainment but the insatiable human need to control body and health.
Start-ups such as Fitbit and Jawbone are motivating established healthcare companies to jump on the wearable-device bandwagon. Pedometers in shoes and bracelets now track sleeping habits. Contact lenses monitor glucose levels. Exoskeletons and neuroprosthetics improve the quality of life for those with disabilities. Clearly, the healthcare industry is ripe for disruption, as consumers seek more meaningful personal health data and capabilities.
The current landscape is full of disparate, first-generation wearable devices, presenting healthcare organizations with a big “Wearable 2.0” opportunity. As many devices today are focused on a single, specific activity (walking, sleeping, running, etc.), tomorrow’s solutions need to be data-derived from a connected ecosystem of wearables. The goal would be to present comprehensive picture of personal health to consumers and doctors, alike.
Technology companies are beating healthcare organizations to the punch
From Intel’s “Make it wearable” campaign to the efforts brands like Apple and Google, technology innovators are laying the foundation for a centralized health management tool by integrating separate connected-device products into a consolidated platform.
In the process, they’re also elevating consumer expectations.
Rather than simply broadcasting medical statistics, fully secured “Wearable 2.0” devices will communicate insights directly to healthcare providers, enabling them to provide informed advice to patients in real-time. Take a moment to consider the impact of this trend…and this one: Google, Apple, and Intel are quietly becoming healthcare providers, with technology and data leading the way.
In the era of the empowered patient, here are some examples of how wearables will impact personalized healthcare:
● Everyone sees the big picture: Think Mint.com, augmented with your own financial advisor, meets health data. Imagine your personal health records, streamlined in a single location, granting you and your doctors total visibility and 24/7 accessibility. This connection will also allow for greater collaboration between physicians, and better integration of overall patient-care. With more accurate and timely data, healthcare recommendations will be newly informed and frequent at the individual level. Additionally, health management will transcend the individual patient or acting physician, such as inviting the active participation of parents in the care of their child or involving specialists (like nutritionists and chiropractors) outside of routine checkups.
● Listen to your digital doctor: An emerging service-offering by medical experts is needed to support continuous measurements over time. This capability is particularly important for determining how patients are reacting to recommended treatments. Along the lines of a health coach or health manager—equipped with comprehensive, real-time data—the offering would be engaged in constant and ongoing communication to encourage healthy decision-making. Part data-scientist and part physician, this medical agent could become an essential member of the overall care team, allowing doctors to focus on larger health issues such as personalized nutrition, exercise, and other healthy recommendations. The approach could also help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, allowing it to be leveraged in times when monitoring ill health. This kind of digitally augmented healthcare management simply does not exist today.
● Predict and prevent disease to enable longer, healthier lives: Active health management enabled by real-time insights will help enable early stage disease detection and monitoring, save time by decreasing unneeded trips to the doctor’s office and, ultimately, result in more convenient outpatient care and telemedicine monitoring. Smarter data, paired with wearable insights, will provide everything from simple check-up reminders to pre-defined thresholds for early warning indicators. For example, taking into account your family history and current statistics, the solution could inform you that preventative measures may be necessary to deter Type II Diabetes.
Wearables will enable us all to see how our health management choices such as diet, sleep patterns, and activity levels impact the overall quality of our personal health. A recent study shows that just 5-10 minutes of running a day can increase life expectancy. How about a wearable with a reward system that instantly displays your estimated gains in life expectancy as a result of your activity?
There are, of course, necessary precautions to think through in terms of patient privacy data and security measures—but the potential exists for transforming the healthcare industry and giving patients more control. This rising role of personal health data is about to revolution the way we experience care and the approaches available for managing our health. It’s a future that looks healthier than ever