Cloud-Powered Wearables To Revolutionize Healthcare Industry

Guest post by Will Hayles, technical writer and blogger, Outscale.

Will Hayles
Will Hayles

Last year, 2014, was the year the wearables market really took off. No end of wearable technologies were released, each promising to hook users into the personal analytics and quantified self trends. Of course, many of those releases went nowhere, and even some of the big companies saw their wearable devices fizzle rather than pop — the obvious example being Google Glass, which received an unprecedented amount of attention, much of which was negative. But there were many successes, and later this year Apple will be entering the fray with the Apple Watch and its bundle of sensors.

Last year the wearables industry was worth around $2.8 billion. Over the next five years it’s expected be to worth more than $8.3 billion. But there is a market with the potential to dwarf the consumer fitness monitoring market, and that’s chronic illness management, which has, unfortunately, if understandably, seen far less attention from startups. As J.C. Herz notes in a Wired article on the subject, the entire market for fitness trackers is vastly outstripped by the size of the market for blood glucose test strips, which are an essential tool in the monitoring of diabetes.

Herz takes a harsh tone with an industry that has failed to focus research and development on solutions for people who stand to benefit the most, but I’m more optimistic. Healthcare outside of the fitness sphere is a difficult market, with a heavy — and necessary — regulatory burden and entrenched ideas about treatment and patient monitoring. Unity Stoakes, co-founder of StartUp Health, recognizes both the challenges and the potential for innovation that can significantly improve people’s lives:

“Unlike other industries, healthcare is plagued by regulation and longer product development timelines. Bringing successful products to market is challenging for both large industry players and digital health entrepreneurs. Startups need access to advisors, peers and dollars, while large companies need ‘batteries included’ entrepreneurs fueling innovation. The unprecedented level of change gripping the healthcare industry today presents both challenges and opportunities for both.”

There is recognition both within the healthcare industry and among technology companies that monitoring tools and other applications of wearable and mobile technology offer an opportunity to substantially change healthcare and the lives of people who suffer with chronic illnesses.

According to a recent study from the Health Research Industry, 42 percent of healthcare providers are comfortable relying on at-home test results for prescriptions. Sixty-six percent thought mobile solutions have the potential to help with the management of chronic diseases. And as we’ve discussed on this blog several times before, mobile technology and wearables are helping caregivers better collaborate and coordinate care.

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Medical Apps are Here to Stay: So How Do We Keep the Value and Lose the Risk?

Domingo Guerra
Domingo Guerra

Guest post by Domingo Guerra, president & co-founder, Appthority.

Last year, 2013, was a big year for mobile applications, including medical and health-related apps. As many medical centers have sought to increase patient engagement, improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs, digital tools, such as iPads, smartphones, online portals and text messaging in hospitals are rapidly becoming commonplace. Smart health tech has gotten serious. Patients and doctors alike use medical apps. Physicians can access symptom checkers, drug information, medical calculators and more via smartphone and tablet apps. Patients can use apps to find doctors, set appointments, order prescriptions, receive test results, track calories, measure their heart rates and even monitor chronic diseases like diabetes. Patients and doctors agree that the immediate feedback and increase in available data will change the face of medicine. But will the face of privacy change with it?

Acquiring huge amounts of personal data from individuals could enable a more personalized and data driven approach to medicine. This is a very seductive concept, based on the implicit assumption that the more healthcare providers know about the patient, from analyzing his or her data, the better (and more customized) care the patient will receive. However, personal data, now collected and collated by the user’s health gadget, will be incredibly valuable to more than just the patient and the provider. Devices, whether they’re Google Glass or fitness wristbands will need to be integrated with newly developed apps, and existing apps will need to be heavily adapted to work properly. These technology integrations can potentially open back doors that allow cybercriminals to enter and extract sensitive data.

The aggregated data gathered from a wearable wristband capable of tracking a user’s heart rate, and expiration rates along with their blood sugar level and, of course, location can offer a truly comprehensive view of a user. Yes, it’s still early in the healthcare wearables space, but it was “early” in the mobile and BYOD spaces not long ago. Just as BYOD has led to security concerns for sensitive corporate data, these new healthcare devices should be a concern for personal privacy. As users are now literally plugging themselves into the Internet, it’s important to remember that cyber attackers can gain details about daily routines, patterns, and lifestyle, as well as location. This private information, tied together in a dossier that can include a user’s location, income, health status, and other attributes such as sexual orientation, could be of interest to many other groups.

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