The shifting focus on personalized healthcare and quality of care coupled with innovative tech has opened doors for redefining how health is managed. The continual innovation in health tech has given rise to numerous platforms, apps, and devices to improve and or monitor the user’s health and fitness. However, the growth has also led to eclectic collections of health and medical innovations that seem to follow different paths without any clear objective. That is not to say that these apps and devices do not have a purpose or value, in fact they have bring value and benefit to the users.
However, from a more strategic perspective, these trends are not sustainable due to loss of interest amongst users after few weeks to months and many apps/devices do not address a problem, rather they provide convenience.
The market today is saturated with apps/wearables providing users with capabilities for health self-management. These tools are great but in many cases do not serve any purpose – the need for developing something new outweighs the need to develop something practical. As with the current consumer trends, things last in the market for a short while before something new comes along. At other times, wearables serve a good purpose but may not meet healthcare needs – data may be unreliable, inconsistent, or not considered by the doctor.
So many apps & wearables target consumers who see this as addition and quite possibly a luxury to their lifestyle, not a necessity for their life. With so many wearables and health apps in the market, there are very few that can really cater to to those who need medical attention. As with many consumer products, once the novelty wears off, the product is no longer used. In a recent article in Wired titled Wearables Are Totally Failing the People Who Need Them Most, the author J.C. Herz points out:
‘it’s a shame because the people who could most benefit from this technology—the old, the chronically ill, the poor—are being ignored. Indeed, companies seem more interested in helping the affluent and tech-savvy sculpt their abs and run 5Ks than navigating the labyrinthine world of the FDA, HIPAA, and the other alphabet soup bureaucracies.’
The strong focus on the consumer-market isolates need-based development. Indeed as Herz points out in her article, the hype and the trend to create such apps outweighs any long-term benefit or purpose. Furthermore, healthcare system isn’t equipped to assimilate various patient-generated physiological and psychological data and integrate into patient care plan – hospital EHR’s in most cases would not support such functions and these apps certainly aren’t developed for integration with EHR.
Focusing on needs of the chronically ill, improving health outcomes is challenging task requiring alignment with Medicare policies,health care needs and policies, integration with various other technologies, improving health outcomes through patient engagement, sustaining patient engagement.
Within a large saturated market focused on health apps/wearables, it would seem most companies overlook, ignore, or shy away from addressing healthcare needs. Filling the void in a nascent market is mHealth tech for Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) catering to the needs of the patients.
The health apps/wearables industry is in constant flux – shifting consumer trends dictate the vector of the industry. Patient needs on the other hand do not change so easily, what does change is how patient needs can be met (See figure below). Yet, in light of a large need-based user segment, very few companies are actually involved in meeting the needs of the patients. The crux being there is a distinct difference between the consumer health tech industry and the health care tech industry.
While both industries may use the same platforms for delivery of service (smartphones, tablets, etc) neither of the industries can fulfill the the role & needs of the other. It is simply that the Health apps/wearables industry is larger than its patient-centered counterpart thus leading to greater expectations and anticipation.
For Further Reading:
10 Ways Remote Patient Monitoring Saves Money by Robert Herzog,CEO of eCaring