September 8th, 2017

Wearables Need Better Integration to Improve Patient Outcomes

Last month, news broke that Apple and Aetna held private meetings to discuss the possibility of providing the Apple Watch to the insurer’s 23 million members. While this is certainly an interesting development (especially to those tracking sales projections for Apple Watch), it is not surprising to see the evolution of this relationship. Today, Aetna is already offering the Apple Watch to its 50,000 employees as part of its corporate wellness program. The idea here is to provide this offering to its members, whereby they can facilitate a healthier lifestyle and a better tracking of diet / exercise.

Besides Apple Watch, there are a variety of other gadgets on the market, such as the ones from Fitbit and Samsung and countless other fitness/health apps that track data including steps walked, calories burned, pulse, etc. While this is great, the fundamental piece that is still missing in the industry is the transformation of data into “knowledge”, especially at the point of care. How can we take all the data that is being generated and harness it in a way that health care providers can utilize it and improve patient outcomes?

While this news is a step in the right direction, what we truly need is collaboration across multiple parties – technology organizations, payers, and healthcare providers. To date, most of the effort and work has been done in silos across these entities. As a result, we have not seen a closed loop system, whereby the patients/consumers, care-providers, and insurance companies all have meaningful and actionable insights that result in improved outcomes.

Imagine a scenario where the data generated from a fitness wearable is made available for your primary care provider to view (of course in a secure HIPAA compliant manner) and entered into your medical record. It would be more compelling if this data resulted in actionable insights for your primary care provider and enabled them to prescribe the right medication and/or treatment plan based upon the collected data. This would be significant for the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

There are several start-up technology companies today (e.g. Omada Health) who are focused on wellness promotion via a combination of their own platform, partnered with health coaching to better manage Type 2 diabetes. However, it’s still not along the lines of where we need the industry to go in terms of truly enabling all the key stakeholders (consumers/patients, care providers, and payers) to have access to “knowledge”. We keep hearing that the future of healthcare is data democratization, referencing the knowledge-driven power within medicine and its inevitable shift from the doctor to the patient. This fundamental transition provides the masses access to their own health information like never before, and puts them further in the driver’s seat. However, to truly enable healthcare data democratization, we need a seamless integration approach. One where we can truly harness the capabilities of wearable technologies.

health wearables

There is no question that fitness and health dimension by wearables will continue to make strides, but the real opportunity is to have a common platform whereby we can truly put the collected health data to work. Here at DMI, we have had the opportunity to work with several healthcare clients to enable “knowledge” driven actionable insights at the point of care.

Tapan Mehta

Tags: Apple Watch healthcare internet of things IoT wearables

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