How the Internet of (Wearable) Things is Driving Healthcare Innovation
May 17, 2014
Eugene Borukhovich is an international expert on healthcare information technology innovation. He is the founder and organizer of Health 2.0 NYC and Health 2.0 Amsterdam and is a leading advocate in healthcare consumer issues and open health data. He currently serves as VP Healthcare, European Markets at SoftServe, Inc., and can be followed on Twitter at @HealthEugene.
As a society, we are generating an unprecedented amount of data every day. According to SINTEF, 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in just the last two years! We are only at the beginning of this data explosion, with new sensors and devices surrounding and embedding themselves into our everyday lives.
With the amount of technological choices available to us, I ask myself, “What about health?” To paraphrase healthcare futurist Maneesh Juneja: “Our bodies are generating a continuous data stream 24 hours a day, and venture capitalists are jumping on this trend.”
According to Rock Health’s latest Digital Health Funding report, $136 million was invested into wearables and biosensors in 2013.
Consumer Level Options
- Fitbit – I’ve been using this handy bracelet device for two years; it gives me the initial push to compete against myself for steps taken and stairs climbed. This has resulted in weight loss, but has also created the ability and interest to continually quantify and analyze my health.
- Basis Science – I was fortunate enough to participate in this company’s beta program and absolutely loved the additional data points that their device (an attractive, sleek watch) gathered: temperature, perspiration, and heart rate.
- Misfit Shine – Billed as “the world’s most elegant physical activity monitor,” this button-sized device earned massive support with their crowdsourcing campaign, with options to subtly wear the device as a necklace, watch, clasp, or within socks or a shirt.
- Scanadu Scout – This futuristic device takes a person’s vitals after being pressed to their forehead, letting people learn how different situations, foods and activities affect their personal epidemiology.
- The Dash wireless smart headphones – Recently receiving over $3 million in Kickstarter funding, these tiny ear buds deliver tunes while also taking body vitals and tracking performance.
Tracking the Data
It’s only recently that we, as consumers, attained the ability to capture all this body area traffic and start making sense of it. Most of the tools provided are not giving us actionable knowledge to actually improve our health and wellness. Corporations are jumping on the bandwagon, and there has been an upswing in corporate wellness programs utilizing these technologies.
While true pseudo-geeks like me and health enthusiasts are using these tools, what about the rest of the population? The potential is there to drive and improve healthcare for hundreds of millions of healthcare consumers (notice that I’m not calling them patients) that are suffering with a chronic disease and many co-morbidities.
According to WHO, about 350 million people around the world have diabetes, and aside from structuring incentives for physical activity, the ecosystem needs to move towards preventative and prescriptive analysis of this big data generated by our bodies. As an example: Heapsylon’s Smart Sock System prototype; its use cases can range from Diabetic Foot complication to peripheral neuropathy.
And what about cancer? A smart bra (aka “First Warning System”) uses a set of sensors to detect breast cancer and boasts a 90 percent accuracy of detection even before any mammogram can.
We all know we need to stop smoking, eat healthy food and perform physical activity for the body and the brain. In order to manage a chronic disease, these tools need to get more accurate, actionable and accepted by the practitioner community, as a viable way of looking at personalized trends and not just point-in-time measurements inside the office. The in-office medical portion of the health record will become just a small percentage of the overall “patient record” that is owned, shared and controlled by us as individuals. The empowered healthcare consumer will control our own triage and produce our vitals by our own body area networks.
The wearable internet of things will mature, get more accurate and will indeed enable the future of chronic disease management.