Wearables, Data And The Changing Nature of Healthcare


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Like many industries today, healthcare delivery is undergoing significant disruption. With the introduction of new technological advancements, data-driven tools and innovative medical devices, we are witnessing the next evolutionary stage of healthcare. One of the driving forces is the shift from volume based care to value based care. In a volume based system, the more times a patient sees a doctor, the more the doctor gets paid. In a value based system, the incentives change, and the quality of results are prioritized over the quantity of visits.

This new value based system focuses on:

  • Improving the timing of care and the time it takes to administer (i.e. shortening patient treatment and recovery cycles which equates to shorter stays in hospitals)
  • Improving the quality of care and patient outcomes by maximizing adherence to treatments (i.e. so called patient ‘compliance’)
  • Increasing cost effectiveness

What wearables mean for an industry in flux

While everyone agrees that these new guiding principles represent a marked improvement in the patient experience, there are clear conflicts that must be reconciled. How can the industry provide quicker treatment and produce better outcomes, while lowering the cost of care? According to Dr. Eric Schadt, Founding Director of the Icahn Institute at New York’s Mount Sinai Health Systems, the answer lies with wearables and mobile apps that gather and analyze patient data, then seamlessly connect with doctors and other healthcare professionals. These conduits for better therapy efficacy and cost-effectiveness go a long way in addressing all three principles simultaneously.

For example, if you are relatively healthy, you may only see a physician once a year for your annual check-up. According to Schadt, the tests conducted to assess your state of health during these visits are severely limited in gauging whether you are at risk of contracting a disease. “Unless something catastrophic is going on within you—lipid levels that are way off the charts or glucose levels or something extreme—they’re not doing much to assess what your state of well-being is, and the information stored in medical records is not extensive enough.”

Wearables will go a long way in neutralizing the effects of this 364 day black-out period. By providing continuous, long-term monitoring, wearables will form an accurate portrait of a patient's health. They will establish patient baselines and deduce whether or not deviations indicate that the patient is slipping into a diseased state. This enables early intervention, which in turn, drives better outcomes for patients as well as lower costs of care. In fact, recent research from the McKinsey Institute states that by 2025, the value generated by remote patient monitoring could be as much as $1.1 trillion per year, primarily due to enhanced prevention and early intervention in chronic-disease patients.

The road to wearable healthcare

Despite obvious advantages, the use of remote monitoring within healthcare is still in its infancy as most wearables are still ‘recreational grade’. There are, however, emerging examples of ‘healthcare grade’ wearables such as the FDA approved glucose monitor that interfaces with a digital app and directly connects with healthcare providers. With sensor technology improving quickly, it is only a matter of time before your health information resides more outside of the physicians walls than inside of them.

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