I have come to the conclusion that "health wearables" will evolve into a significant component of our healthcare delivery system, monitoring our health status on a daily basis and perhaps even periodically offering advice about the problems that we all experience. By health wearable, I mean devices with sensors that monitor our physical or physiologic parameters. Such sensors are embedded in devices like smart phones which can also support sensors that are plugged into them. Fitness bands also fall into this category although I think that majority of consumers will opt to use their smart phones for heath monitoring. One obvious example of this category is the iPhone Health app.
I further believe that such "health wearables" will enable us sometimes to "jump over" the first step in the delivery of services which is to diagnose an illness or injury and then perhaps to triage the problem to the relevant specialists. The "health wearable" may be able to perform this diagnosis/triage step. In the light of these developments, companies like Microsoft are eyeing the health wearable market and trying to develop guidelines to manage the accession and management of personal health data. The details were provided in a recent article (see: Microsoft eyes guidelines for consumer health wearables) and below is an excerpt from the article:
Microsoft is joining the effort to create guidelines for developers of wearables and mHealth apps.The company has joined forces with the University of California, San Diego and the Vitality Institute to create "responsibility guidelines" that target six important issues in the use of personalized health technology. The guidelines are designed to not only help developers and healthcare providers in promoting everything from apps to smartwatches to interactive pill bottles, but to help consumers know which technology to trust. “Innovative personal health technology products are producing completely new categories of data and creating completely new challenges for developers, clinicians and users,” Dennis Schmuland, MD, Microsoft’s chief health strategy officer for the U.S. Health and Life Sciences division and an author of the guidelines, said....The six points addressed in the guidelines are:
- The privacy of a user's health data.
- Defining who owns...[health] data.
- Guidelines for interpreting... [health] data.
- Integrating product design with validated scientific evidence.
- Integrating evidence-based methods to health behavior improvement.
- Making the technology available to underserved populations.
Here's more information about the Vitality Group with which Microsoft is aligned on this project:
The Vitality Group is a member of South Africa-based Discovery Limited, a leading international financial services organization and the originator of the Vitality well-being program. With more than 15 years of experience and an established global record of success, the program today has over 6 million members worldwide.
There are really no real surprises in these six points. The one thing that does jump out in the list is the idea of "making the technology available to underserved populations." Relatively inexpensive health wearables could potentially substitute in some cases for the absence of adequate healthcare services. This does not seem to me to be a readily attainable goal in the short term. The inclusion of this idea seems to be more of a politically correct addition to the list.