The digital healthcare sector is currently undergoing an astonishing transformation. The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices and wearables are enabling patients to make informed decisions in relation to their own health. Wearable technology is actively being used by healthcare providers to enhance the patient/clinician engagement process and improve healthcare outcomes for patients and sufferers of chronic diseases. Forward thinking healthcare providers are now looking for ways to leverage the power of mobile technology, and particularly wearables to provide meaningful answers to complex health problems. Today we’re exploring how wearable technology is transforming digital health.
What is digital health?
Digital health is defined as being the overall convergence of the digital and genomic revolutions within health, healthcare, living, and society. Digital health is important because it’s empowering people to track, analyse, and optimise their own health, live better lives, and improve the overall well being of society. The transformation of digital health is also helping to decrease inefficiencies in healthcare delivery, improve accessibility, decrease costs, increase quality, and to ensure that medicines are delivered with greater precision.
Healthcare can be improved through access to lab results and drug information systems which can notify pharmacists in relation to potentially harmful interactions. Digital healthcare, through the deployment of online services for patients and mobile enabled diagnostic techniques, can also provide greater care efficiency when benchmarked against traditional technologies. New technologies such as digital diagnostics systems can be comprised of a series of different data points in relation to allergies, radiology images, test results, immunisation history, patient history, treatment schedules and insurance information.
The global market for digital health
The global market for digital health was worth over $55 billion in 2015 and is anticipated to grow with a 21.4% CAGR between now and the year 2020 (CCS Insight). It’s estimated that in 2015, the digitised health system sector represented over 48% of the entire digital health market. Venture capital investment in digital health in 2014 reached over $4.1 billion which represented a 125% increase year-over-year growth. What’s truly remarkable is the fact that overall investing in digital health surpassed that in traditional healthcare and medical devices for the same time period.
In 2016 the global market for digital health is growing rapidly. This shift is largely being driven by increased demand for complex healthcare information systems and increased investment in new technologies, particularly mobile. These technologies can include mHealth, telemedicine, electronic health records that enable new services for patient care, treatment, diagnosis and rehabilitation. The deployment of these new technologies is designed to enhance communication between patients and healthcare professionals in order to reduce medication mistakes.
It’s also estimated that by 2020 the market for wearable technology specifically will be worth $34 billion through the sale of some 411 million smart wearable devices. Although many of these wearable technologies are considered as a luxury product or fitness tracker designed for lifestyle activities, increasingly many new wearable devices and innovations are helping sufferers of chronic illnesses and conditions.
Wearables are increasingly using gamification techniques and technologies such as augmented reality and VR to engage healthcare consumers and play an increasingly poignant role in our everyday lives. Market growth is also being driven by increased accessibility to Wifi as wearable technologies can be continuously connected in order to facilitate a constant stream of data. This is providing a rich and intuitive experience not just for fitness and activity tracker users, but for people suffering from chronic conditions in order to provide real-time data on the move.
Wearable technology is empowering consumers
The Swiss Bank UBS recently indicated that sales of the Apple Watch totalled 1.7 million in Q3 2016, over 100,000 units more than the projected sales figures. Technologies such as the Apple Watch are currently providing one of the earliest and most widely adopted methods of managing personal health and fitness. As such, the Apple Watch has played a crucial role in bringing wearable technology to mainstream consumers by generating huge amounts of awareness in relation to the benefits of health and fitness tracking.
But FitBit and the Apple Watch go way beyond just tracking steps and calorie burn. They actively track things like sleep patterns and provide practical suggestions on what consumers can do do to improve their health. They enable users to create new communities that in turn help to challenge and support one another and can easily be used in conjunction with nutrition and dieting apps such as My Fitness Pal. FitBit now produce a set of scales for monitoring weight performance that link directly to the user’s mobile app. Companies such as FitBit now have masses of data on trends and habits through mass consumer adoption of wearables. As wearables devices continue to proliferate the mainstream, the availability of data will grow exponentially.
Some of the more sophisticated wearable devices can also measure what’s referred to as GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) or sweat which provides data and feedback in relation to consumer stress levels. Increased GSR readings mean increased stress which signals to the wearable user that it’s time to change their behaviour in order to reduce stress levels and the risk of a serious condition developing. This is particularly helpful for consumers who are sufferers of stress related conditions and illnesses and enables them to identify particular situations that trigger stressful responses so they can learn to actively avoid these triggers before problems start to occur.
Wearables are improving quality of life
Innovations in wearable technology can offer solutions to a multitude of health issues. Often these health problems are not deemed to be life threatening but can have a seriously adverse effect on overall wellbeing and quality of life. Here are some of the best wearable devices that are playing a crucial role in improving overall quality of life for patients:
Omron (blood pressure)
Despite its bulky size and awkward appearance, Omron is more than just a fitness-centric step counter. Omron is a clinically accurate blood pressure monitor (BPM) that enables real-time analysis and management of blood pressure readings. It enables patients with high blood pressure symptoms and chronic illness to interpret their health data in order to make smarter and better informed decisions in relation to lifestyle habits. Omron uses a variety of sensors to monitor factors such as sleep, number of steps taken on a daily basis, calorie burn and sleep quality, features which consumers now expect when it comes to purchasing a fitness tracker. But Omron is more than just a fitness tracker or a luxury gadget, it’s actually helping to improve quality of life for sufferers of high blood pressure.
Omron also possesses a feature called Project Zero, designed for use with the upper arm, uses sensors to determine hypertension and measure the patient’s heartbeat. The devices functionality possesses many more features and sensors when compared with previous iterations of the device. This means that patients suffering from a high blood pressure condition can receive blood pressure data at any time, on the move and from any location without being connected to wires or tubes from within the hospital or practice. High blood pressure sufferers can simply use the wearable wristband and the armband to send data to the Omron mobile app. The top end wearable device costs $200 and was recently featured at the CES conference 2016.
Resound is a revolutionary new wearable product designed and developed to improve the lives of sufferers of hearing loss. The company develop hearing aids and smart accessories that enable hearing loss sufferers to control their hearing device via an iOS app. The ReSound product is developed purely for mobile devices and works in conjunction with all iOS devices including iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch via a bluetooth connection. ReSound customers can experience a variety of features that enable them to control hearing volume, treble and bass. This is ideal for sufferers of severe hearing loss as they can fine tune their settings to provide a better quality sound when using the mobile app. What’s really cool about ReSound is the fact that users can create different settings depending upon their location. The ReSound technology can then actually determine if the user is in a busy or noisy area and adapt it’s settings to suit the specific context of the situation.
RightEye is a wearable technology product that acts as a set of goggle. The technology is designed to gamify the patient user experience in order to measure vision performance and is only sold directly to healthcare professionals and not the general public. The technology is currently used by a range of clients including the US military and professional sports teams to test and monitor people with vision difficulties. RightEye’s primary function is to test vision performance but it also acts as a concussion detector and can be used to identify potential issues relating to overall vision performance. The company recently launched a product called The Neuro Vision Tool which deploys vision tracking technology in order to determine if a patient has suffered a recent head injury.
Wearable technology is transforming the entire digital health landscape and enabling patients to analyse meaningful data and make informed decisions in relation to personal healthcare. Wearables are now creating a culture of patient empowerment whereby healthcare professionals can incorporate new technologies into their diagnoses. New wearable devices can be deployed to improve the level of engagement between patients and healthcare providers. Increasingly nowadays healthcare providers are seeking to leverage the power of mobile technology and specifically wearables to find new solutions to traditional healthcare issues. If you’re a healthcare provider seeking to unlock the power of mobile and wearable technology, contact Waracle today to start the conversation.