While smarter analytics can be used to help businesses, public agencies and cities tap into “Big Data” to glean insights and help make decisions in realtime, I’m seeing this same smarter analytics phenomenon start to take hold on a more personal level — in the area of connected health devices. From monitoring blood pressure to physical therapy progress, to fitness goals and beyond, the ability to use connected devices to analyze and act on our personal health information is really starting to take off. The movement has a name: The Quantified Self, and it even has a poster child: Nicholas Felton who publishes his own annual report on everything from food consumption to where he goes for runs.
On the healthcare front, consumers have a growing appetite for health and wellness devices, and this represents a burgeoning market opportunity for device manufacturers that has barely been tapped. Increasingly, wellness devices will be used to fill the information gap for consumers that are relatively healthy, but need devices that provide information to help them gain greater control over their conditions and lead healthier lives. These devices will plan, predict, and monitor information, feeding it directly to caregivers and clinicians as well as support networks. Users will interact with devices on their own terms, and connect them via broadband, wireless and wire line connections.
According to an IBM study conducted last year on the Future of Connected Health Devices, this growing demand for devices is driven by “information seekers” — people who will increasingly turn to technology to help manage health-related challenges to reach their wellness goals.
The study surveyed more than 1,300 consumers currently using health and wellness devices and found that these consumers are demanding a new generation of health devices, greater simplicity, and better information sharing. Users want the ability to connect with their caregiver and reduce office visits to their healthcare professionals, as well as the ability to collaborate online with a community of peers with similar issues and interests.
For companies across the electronics, healthcare and life sciences industries that choose to target these “Information Seekers” our research and analysis suggests keeping four key principles in mind:
Make it easy. Adoption will depend on making the monitoring process easy for everyone involved. Consumers need simple, intuitive, yet feature-rich devices and online tools that are designed for their specific needs. For instance, kids with ADHD may need a very basic user interface that does not distract from schoolwork, while busy executives may prefer a smartphone application that can be used unobtrusively during meetings and while in transit.
Advances in interfaces and mobile communications will continue to provide opportunities for ease-of-use breakthroughs. For example, bioacoustic sensing could allow the skin to be used as an input surface, enabling an interface that is literally always at hand. By overlaying information on top of a live view of the real world, augmented reality technologies could help users immediately “see” detected conditions that demand action.
Design the solution with the end result in mind. Information Seekers need a comprehensive solution. This will necessitate an end-to-end view that involves integration with healthcare providers, payers and even peer support networks. Solutions should also leverage the power of data analytics. The real value for consumers and especially healthcare providers is hidden in the data; they need tools to consolidate, interpret and mine it. For many conditions, peer support will also play a key role in effectively managing health challenges. Incorporating community and social networking tools can help Information.
Pick a position and partner well. Companies will need to identify an optimal position in this evolving ecosystem by evaluating their strategic objectives and operating strengths. In addition, they will need to strengthen their collaboration and partnering skills since it is unlikely any single firm has all the capabilities required to offer a total solution.
Because its core competency is manufacturing, a device maker may need to collaborate with a software company that develops user interfaces or a publishing company that supplies health-related information and content. And of course, in this market, healthcare provider relationships will be particularly vital – not only because consumers will rely on them for recommendations, but also because the value proposition of connected health device solutions falls apart if they are unwilling to use this new data source.
Help set the rules. Consumer – and especially clinician – adoption will hinge not only on ease-of-use, but also on industry-wide interoperability. Therefore, device makers should get involved and participate actively in the dialog on future standards for the connected health device ecosystem. Continua Health Alliance, for instance, is an alliance consisting of more than 230 healthcare organizations, electronics companies, telecom service providers and IT firms that are committed to working together to create common industry standards that enable device manufacturers to rapidly develop and gain regulatory approval for devices and services.
As with analytics in enterprises, we will see a pattern emerge: first we will get better at gathering data, then we will get good at analyzing data, and finally, we’ll use analytics to make predictions about our behavior. That last part may be the most important of them all. Most people don’t just track their personal data for no reason at all. They track it for the purpose of self-improvement – whether it is for serious medical issues like diabetes or just a desire to get fit and ready for summer.
Tracking behavior goes a long way towards changing it, but it doesn’t complete the job. To change ourselves, we need to be able to predict what’s going to happen (your schedule is too busy, you’ll never get in than run you have planned) and then take action. Predictive analytics could well be the key to helping us change our behaviors – nudging us in many small ways to make better decisions, before we regret them.
I’d like to hear your views on “The Future of Connected Health Devices” … Please join me on the #MedDevice tweet chat this Wednesday, April 25, from 1-2 pm Pacific Standard Time/ 4-5 pm Eastern Time.