A sea of change is coming to healthcare. An explosion of new technologies for fitness and wellness, chronic disease monitoring, cancer therapy, glucose levels, and even medication compliance, have emerged onto the market. Technology and the use of smart phones have opened the eyes of American healthcare consumers.
A recent presentation by Dr. Francisco Velazquez, President and Chief Executive Officer of PAML, told the story of a quantified future in healthcare, where consumer technology is present in all areas of the spectrum.
“The consumer driven technology enabled health and wellness market is currently over $500 Billion a year in the U.S. and growing approximately 25% per year. This is largely driven by three factors: the acquisitive power of Baby Boomers, which are indeed the largest consumers of technology; the intergenerational change to Millennials and Centennials as generations born with technology and used to immediate results and access; lastly, the proliferation of technologically advanced tools that allow consumers to actively participate in all activities by using a portable device such as smartphone or tablet,” said Dr. Francisco Velázquez, President and CEO of PAML.
This is a look at the future. With Millennials surpassing the Baby Boomers in the workforce and altering the retail landscape, consumer technology is evolving and driving healthcare decisions. Millennials have inherited a healthcare system that is characterized by unclear pricing, proprietary views about patient data, and a not so user-friendly experience – all values that are opposite to the millennial-driven consumer tech world. Through the adoption of these technologies, we have learned that Millennials value accessibility over accuracy, and they prioritize the transparency of what their products and services cost. Why pay $145 for a service when you could pay only $18? Good question.
As more healthcare technology becomes available in the palm of your hand, self-aggregated healthcare information will inevitably become commonplace in the personalized medicine continuum.
Fitbit is one of many companies proactively integrating its devices, fitness trackers, into trials at hospitals, including at Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern Medicine, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of California San Diego. Fitbit mentioned the rising healthcare demand in its last quarterly meeting.
“I could argue that, better than anyone else, we can help people engage with their health, engage with their family’s health, engage with their insurer and employer, and engage with the healthcare system,” said CEO James Park, Fitbit.
Here are some of the many notable technologies integrating into the healthcare space today:
- Proteus – Ingestible sensors that track successful pill ingestion on your phone
- Kolibree – Toothbrush tells you if you brushed your teeth properly
- Smart Cap – Monitors EEG for truck drivers and sends a signal to prevent falling asleep
- Sona bracelet – HRV technology monitors stress levels from your smart phone
- PIQ – Designed to improve performance in a variety of sports
Millennial tech consumers aren’t the only ones driving this change. Clinical trials and drug development companies are adopting apps and wearables just as fast, as they continually improve the bottom line – automating data collection, streamlining trials, facilitating patient recruitment, and even monitoring trials in real time over Wi-Fi to improve quality. For drug companies, this means proving the efficacy of their products for less investment and getting them to market faster.
“One of the most significant improvements that can be achieved with technology is enhanced access to almost any part of healthcare. We have learned from banking, entertainment and retail that providing a consumer tools that facilitate access to products, services and information not only shortens the transaction cycle but improves the experience and for the most part the outcome. We have also learned that engagement is critical to positive outcomes as is surveillance and adherence to therapeutic protocols, etc. All of these can not only be performed but avatars that utilize AI algorithmic tools can assist a patient/consumer through what use to be a labor intensive process such as data collection, medication adherence and even hospital discharge orders. Anything that enables a traditional patient, which by definition is a passive process to someone who is actively participating in their care, is a step forward,” stated Dr. Francisco Velázquez, President and CEO of PAML.
In terms of personalized medicine, you can expect these devices to become a new standard in the monitoring and treatment of chronic diseases. According to Dr. Velazquez, over the next five years, five new technologies will be developed every month. That equates to 60 new opportunities to integrate consumer tech into the healthcare system each year. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the cancer treatment space, where 30% of cancer therapies are expected to be virtual by 2017.
What’s the downside? Today, the biggest hurdle for mobile devices is the questionable accuracy of the data. Some monitoring devices are under scrutiny for gathering inconsistent or unusable data, which many millennial consumers seem happy to ignore for the sake of convenience. Despite this, some devices seek to raise the bar through creating clinical-quality, FDA approved devices. One such company is iHealth Labs, who makes digitally connected glucometers, blood pressure monitors, weight scales, and will soon make an EKG device, all according to rigorous accuracy standards.
And then there is the unrealized market of possibly $100B for consumer technology in Diagnostics and Laboratory Medicine that is falling behind as some lab companies remain attached to older, more traditional means of diagnosis. To keep up, developers and inventors will have to abandon the incumbent Baby Boomer values for those of the soon to be majority Millennials.
The question yet to be answered is, ‘will the model shift away from consumer healthcare technology before there is full adoption?’ This fast growing segment, for all of its benefits, is far from anchored in the system. Will point-of-care facilities adapt and fill the gaps that mobile technologies plan to address? How can we provide both accuracy & accessibility to millennial consumers who are used to getting answers in nanoseconds, in a way that generates actionable healthcare data? Of one thing we can be sure; you can expect to see a multitude of devices hitting the market and fighting for their place in personalized medicine before that question is answered.
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