How wearables are (and could be) impacting healthcare

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The human body is a wonder in itself—it produces a staggering amount of data 365 days a year, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. Today, there are a lot of devices out there that can measure everything from one’s heartbeat to sleep activity, from temperature to physical activity, leading to a meteoric rise in the marketplace for wearables. According to the latest outlook from CCS Insight, nearly 411 million smart wearable devices, worth a staggering $34 billion, will be sold in 2020.

While self-monitoring blood glucose meters and blood pressure monitors have been around for a while, wearables with their ability to automatically upload data to a smartphone app or website have the potential to significantly alter health outcomes. In their current form, they provide instant feedback, showcase progress and patterns through real-time data and can easily be paired with a health coach, wellness programs or healthcare provider.

But are they driving significant impact? While there has been no doubt that consumers have taken to wearables in the droves, they are having trouble with the stickiness factor. More than 50% of users lose interest in their trackers or stopped using their devices within six months of receiving it. According to Gartner’s recent consumer survey, the abandonment rate of smartwatches is 29% and 30% for fitness trackers because people do not find them useful, they get bored with them, or they break. Dropout (no longer using the device) and adoption slowdown are serious problems for the industry. Besides, there are regulatory and privacy concerns as well that are hampering the complete embrace of wearables not only for personal fitness, but also for actual medical care.
Consumers are not just interested in capturing and interacting with healthcare data; they are willing to share the data if it helps to improve their health outcomes. Innovations like Apple’s HealthKit and advanced analytics are changing the way data is used to create actionable information, data that can be used to quickly diagnose, treat, and even prevent illness.

Wearables can be useful both for the patients and the physicians in a variety of ways. They could help the patient and clinician plan care and track outcomes, provide real-time data and promote self-management for chronic conditions, help improve best practices for recovery and decision-making and data from wearables can be used to integrated with Electronic Medical Records and provide greater insight to physicians.

Currently however, most physicians feel that health wearables provide little helpful data and that the value of raw data from such devices is negligible. Plus, it doesn’t help that data from different devices don’t talk to each other, leaving an incomplete picture of a person’s health. Big health improvements can only take place when disparate data from different sources are synthesized together to generate contextual, holistic insights about individual users. In US and Europe, healthcare companies have to go through a lot of surrogate data. How do we move to actionable intelligence?

This will happen when we can harmonize the different data sources into one homogenous entity. It is imperative to develop an integrated database that could include genomic data, traditional EMR/clinical data, and wearable data, with the idea that these should provide the basis for more precise understanding of patients and disease, and provide more granular insight into effective interventions.

With wearables and cognitive computing, physicians will be able to manage large number of patients with clear visibility into their health through effective use of the data and reducing the chances of misdiagnosis and tragic mistakes. Insights gained from big data analysis will drive the digital disruption of the healthcare world, business processes and real-time decision-making.

As such Artificial intelligence can be used across a wide spectrum of healthcare applications like patient engagement and customer relations, chronic disease management, clinical decision support, and sophisticated big data mining and analytics for diagnostics, population health management, and financial modeling. However, the big challenge will be in integrating technology to make such data work for you. A study in the American Journal of Managed Care found that technology providers don’t have a clear idea about how to integrate big data tools into their daily workflows and therein lies the big problem.

Rising healthcare costs and increasing life spans will prompt people to pay closer attention to their health. Hence, wearables will become even more important as they will bring the data that technology will be able to make sense of. While it remains to be seen how such technologies can actually alter healthcare, the key to success will lie in the ability of the healthcare and life sciences players to lool beyond individual tactical intervention and focus on systemic sub surface patterns.
This is not going to be easy, and it is not going to be fast. So buckle in and stay the course.

Blog Author: 
Satyakam Mohanty ( Saty )
Categories: 
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