Why Wearables are Loudly Knocking on the Doctor’s Door

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We have entered the era of the connected patient as shown by the Apple Watch and other wearable devices that gather data seamlessly and continuously. Along with mobile health applications, they promise to extend medical care further into people’s lives than ever before.

This is a relatively new development. Clinical data collection and communication used to be relegated to brief patient-doctor interactions during a clinic or hospital visit. But it is impossible to thoroughly support the health of a patient if most of the patient’s life is inaccessible. Early successes with blood glucose and cardiac monitoring showed the nascent value of home-based data collection, but we need much more. The ubiquity and power of data collection and communication heralds a needed transformation in healthcare.

Also See: Is Healthcare’s Future Going Mobile?

This transformation will not happen, however, without providers investing in modern social, mobile, cloud and data science platforms that manage information from multiple streams and make it actionable. Healthcare has also been slow to innovate compared to other industries, as evident by a 2011 New England Journal of Medicine study that found nearly every industry sector saw labor productivity gains in the past 20 years with the exception of healthcare. Antiquated and fractured technology systems were one of the primary issues holding the industry back.

Companies outside of healthcare, in contrast, use new technologies and a tidal wave of data to meet and exceed consumer expectations. These days, connecting via mobile phones, apps, text and video have become commonplace. Most of us use the cloud to manage our communications, entertainment, financial planning and transportation needs. Naturally, consumers want the same experiences in healthcare. In fact, a survey from Salesforce (conducted by Harris Poll) revealed that 71 percent of millennials want their doctor/provider to offer a mobile app to actively manage their well-being for preventive care, health records review, or appointment scheduling.

How Smart Health Providers are Disrupting Themselves

Big data was the buzzword for years—but what good is that data without intelligent presentation, context and collaboration? For healthcare, decisions that deliver better outcomes depend on the right data and an infrastructure to manage it. Providers today must make a technology leap to successfully integrate and benefit from this new data by not merely accessing it, but by also applying analytics and predictive technologies to deliver better care and outcomes.

For example, Propeller Health makes asthma inhalers part of the health data stream. Propeller modernizes asthma control by installing sensors in asthma inhalers that record frequency of usage and relay that data to those who need to know. Even more impressively, by collecting geolocation data from many people, Propeller can discover locations that trigger increased inhaler use (identifying poor air quality), and contribute the information to public health.

As providers begin to collect and analyze data on both sick and healthy patients, they will change the patient experience. No longer will care be limited to ephemeral interactions, but instead, it will expand. As clinicians harness data about everything from steps to eating habits, they will grow to understand patients’ behaviors and discover effective methods for preventive care. Patients are willing to share this data, as we saw in the same Salesforce survey that showed 63 percent of millennials were interested in proactively providing their health data from Wi-Fi/wearable devices to their providers to monitor their well-being.

Healthcare providers who invest in data science and mobile, social and cloud technologies better understand and build relationships with patients--and will stay ahead in the wearable revolution. Furthermore, they should invest in this future because the patient that actively participates as a “connected patient” provides the highest value to a health system through giving providers access to data, more effective relationships, and cost savings opportunities for preventive care.

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