Despite the recent ICD-10 fiasco (stalled again!), the healthcare industry is headed for big change. Kicking and screaming perhaps, but moving forward anyway.
The biggest drivers in healthcare progress right now, as I see it, are technological advances that empower patients–the so-called healthcare consumers! These include things like powerful new social media tools (such as the barrage of new health-related smartphone apps that is flooding the iOS App Store and Google Play); as well as a host of new devices that you and I can wear to help us gauge and maintain our own health.
Recently, I purchased a Jawbone UP24 health tracking wrist band. It tells me (via an associate iPhone app) how much physical activity I’m getting (in step per day), how many calories I’m taking in and how much sleep I’m getting.
Also, through other compatible apps, my UP24 can help me track my walking/running program, my weight, my blood pressure, and so on.
The UP24, and its cousins from companies such as Fitbit and Garmin, are enabling a whole new movement. The essence of this movement (buzz word “Quantified Self”) is empowerment through self-observation, self-measurement and connecting with others through social media–Facebook, Twitter and a host of others that are also springing up on a weekly basis. For instance, the UP24 has its own community of UPsters, connected to each other via the UP app!
So, what does this have to do with healthcare? I am diabetic. I have another app that I use to record my blood sugars. The device I used to measure my blood sugars talks to this app. If my blood sugars are out of whack, I have a record I can share with my healthcare provider (doc) to show him or her what’s going on. In some cases, you may have a device that monitors your heart rhythms, and the that device’s signal connects to system that provider can see in real time what is happening with your heart (or your breathing, or your sleep patterns).
This isn’t science fiction, folks. It’s all happening right now. And in the near future, you can anticipate that this self-quantification and connectivity will change the face of healthcare forever.
Telehealth and telemedicine are terms that are now common in the vocabulary of the doctors and nurses that are caring for you and your family now. mHealth (mobile health) and eHealth (electronic health) are no longer the stuff of Star Trek. Recently, a company called Scanadu introduced, not too different in function from the one that Bones, the Star Trek doc) used frequently to diagnose the crew member on the Starship Enterprise. Of the course, the Scanadu Scout is much more elegant than the “old Tricorder” and it does much more.
Every day new devices like the Jawbone UP24 and the Scanadu Scout are appearing on the market. Innovation and empowerment–two trends healthcare must prepare for.