The Future of Healthcare
People want to take a more active role in managing their
healthcare both to reduce costs and improve their quality of life. Device
makers have a great opportunity to fulfill this need but to be successful,
they must partner to ensure they have the blend of skills, consumer understanding
and healthcare expertise, advises Jeby Cherian, Director, Strategy, IBM
Director - Strategy,
IBM India/South Asia
In the very near future, you might find the key to better
health right in your pocket. No doubt this will drive the emergence of empowered
consumers. Consumers, who have a growing appetite for health and wellness devices
and this represents a burgeoning market opportunity for device manufacturers
that has barely been tapped.
Research indicates that increasingly, wellness devices will
be used to fill the information gap for consumers that are relatively healthy,
but need devices that provide information to help them gain greater control
over their conditions and lead healthier lives. These devices will plan, predict
and monitor information, feeding it directly to caregivers and clinicians as
well as support networks. Users will interact with devices on their own terms,
and connect them via broadband, wireless and wireline connections.
to a recent study The Future of Connected Health Devices by IBM
Institute for Business Value, there is growing demand for devices and this is
driven by information seekers -- people who will increasingly turn to technology
to help manage health-related challenges to reach their wellness goals. The
global study surveyed more than 1,300 consumers currently using health and wellness
devices and found that these consumers are demanding a new generation of health
devices, greater simplicity and better information sharing. Users want the ability
to connect with their caregiver and reduce office visits to their healthcare
professionals and the added ability to collaborate online with a community of
peers with similar issues and interests. And they are willing to pay for it.
More than one third of current device users surveyed expect to contribute to
the cost of new health devices over the next two years while 35 per cent also
expect to pay a monthly service fee.
Whether connected online, to a PC, gaming device, tablet or smart phone, wellness
devices will become ubiquitous in the future, especially in caring for the sick,
the elderly and those in need of medical assistance, but also for healthier
people who want to achieve wellness goals. IBM scientists and healthcare experts
envision a number of new devices to help individuals with the following challenges:
Dieting A new generation of devices for dieting
will also measure movement, speed and intensity. These devices will engage users
if they aren't moving enough or provide a movement task to accomplish. Relying
on the help of friends, family and social networks, the devices could alert
others to elicit motivation, encouragement or even to "tell on them"
to hold them accountable to a friend. These devices will be integrated into
tools for monitoring medication adherence, blood pressure and weight for a more
complete picture of the user's health.
Elder Care For patients suffering from memory
loss or impairment, devices for establishing location and compliance with medication
regimes, connected to a digital pill box will be commonly used. These devices
will pinpoint the location of both the user as well as the caregiver, to give
the patient peace of mind, providing medication reminders and direct access
to caregiver support.
Blood monitoring The advent of a non-invasive
blood test to automatically analyse blood via a wrist band will wirelessly transmit
data to your doctor. When cholesterol levels spike, iron levels drop or
white blood cell counts increase, users will know when to modify their medications,
or seek medical attention.
Independence and mobility Mobility is a critical
factor to independent living, enabling people to remain in their homes and delay
entry into assisted living and hospital facilities. Devices to keep people ambulatory
will increasingly be used to monitor movement. These devices will provide coaching
and tasks to improve coordination, range of motion and stability. They will
also determine if the user is walking steadily, getting out of chairs easily,
or if he or she needs assistance. Devices and sensors that predict conditions
that could lead to a fall can alert the user to stop and rest or ask for help.
It will alert caregivers if a fall occurs.
Communication New devices that tap brain waves
will make it easier for the medically fragile and impaired to express their
thoughts and sensations via a digital avatar of the human body. With the help
of sensors, even non-verbal patients will be able to express how they are responding
to specific treatments or pain, precisely indicate sensations in their body,
or ask for medical attention, such as to change their position in bed or request
more oxygen. These devices will capture important vital sign data as it streams
in, interpreting it in real time and alerting caregivers to changes instantly.
Also, users will expect devices to easily share information with their family
or healthcare professionals. Additionally, they require: ease of use, reasonable
pricing and real-time information sharing from their devices.
Significantly, device companies will need to strengthen their collaboration
and partnering skills since it is unlikely any single firm has all the capabilities
required to offer a total solution. These companies may need to collaborate
with software companies that develop user interfaces, or publishing companies
that supply health-related information and content.
Both consumer and clinician adoption of devices will hinge not only on ease-of-use,
but also on industry-wide interoperability, the study concludes. Device makers
should get involved and participate actively in future standards for the connected
health device ecosystem. Additionally, manufacturers will need more than innovative,
easy-to-use devices to succeed. A comprehensive consumer experience will be
required. This must include online and retail support, accessories, additional
information and content, social network support and education.
As the healthcare market continues to evolve, sophisticated devices and services
will continue to empower the consumers to better self-care and connect seamlessly
with the healthcare providers. Creating novel, reliable, and cost-effective
personal health solutions would require increased synergy amongst all the stakeholders
within the healthcare ecosystem.
Are we ready? The future beckons.