The following sections discuss these evolutionary phases of healthcare in some detail.
Phase I: Fitness and Sport
The first phase of health integration has been introduced through wristbands, smartwatches, sensors in shoes, heart monitors in school sports and telemetry from gym equipment. The sensors all give basic information on key indicators of performance and health for athletes (runners, cyclists, gymnasts, etc.) while training. The health information is typically tied to a specific device vendor’s apps and services.
As this phase progresses, more diverse sensors and more personally-targeted info of higher quality will be available at attractive price points. The data will increasingly be tied to web-based health knowledge and social media, combining personal performance indicators with goals, games, contests and events. For those of you who have a Fitbit, Nike Fuel Band (or similar), you are already participating in this phase!
Phase II: Health Awareness
The proliferation of health sensors in next-generation smartwatches and devices that are empowered by Apple Health, Google Fit and others will bring focused and instant awareness of health information and condition. Moving beyond fitness and sport, more information will be available for additional activities of daily living, including detailed sleep analysis, continuous monitoring of blood glucose for diabetics, as well as blood pressure, pulse and heart rhythms. Consumers will be more educated and aware, but will also increasingly turn to Dr. Google for more information on potential ailments, often leading to social hypochondria. “On the internet,” says Ron Gutman, “every headache becomes a brain tumor in four clicks or less.”
Of course, the other outcome of increased access to medical information is that patients become more actively involved and informed in their care. They can better understand what is happening to their health, go to the doctor prepared with informed questions and often become consultants with the doctor in arriving at the best care plan.
Services that collect and analyze data from personal health sensors will expand globally, providing health analysis (and assurance) at price points in some countries like the U.S. that may drive some consumers away from clinics. However, consumers must remember that trained healthcare professionals can provide a much more complete picture of health at this phase and ongoing consultation with medical professionals will be important for their wellbeing.
Phase III: Health Management
During this phase, professional-quality health information is available at your fingertips and is integrated with your personal health history for trending and identification of ailments. Sophisticated sensors will be continuously monitoring and collecting info for doctors throughout a patient’s various Activities of Daily Living (ADL). In addition to aggregated data in cloud services, it’s feasible that you’ll be walking around with your personal health record and the most recent data to support it. This dramatically increases the need for mobile data privacy and ensuring there are a highly secure means to authorize medical professionals access to your healthcare information.
Diagnosis based on data from personal sensors and services will combine with a collaborative and participative health model to quickly identify potential new issues and aid in tough differential diagnoses. Your doctors may even be on the other side of the world. The personal benefits, combined with insurance and healthcare system incentives to participate in active, monitored health management, has the potential to keep the majority of us plugged into these services despite privacy concerns.