Making Magic From the Premise and Promise of Wearable Tech
Remember when you used your mobile phone only for calls? In the 1990s, a telephone was just that: a telephone. It wasn’t a tool for texting, listening to music, playing games or a hundred other things. Social networks happened in coffeehouses, videos required VHS tapes, and photographs were taken with products by Minolta, not Apple.
Twenty years later, we’re on the verge of similar nostalgia with wearable devices like pedometers and heart-rate monitors. We’ll soon look back on the quaint days when a wearable health tracker had only one purpose.
Already, wearables are adding sensors and capabilities to track far more than just one thing. Intel’s Basis smartwatch tracks activity, blood pressure, sleep quality, heart rate, perspiration and skin temperature. Leaked screens from Apple’s Healthbook suggest that their rumored iWatch will have a variety of sensors like these. And Amazon.com recently launched a wearable technology storefront, further legitimizing the future of the wearables market.
I expect to see similar devices from Samsung, Sony, and other manufacturers in the months ahead. As consumers, we’ll use these devices to gain and maintain a deeper understanding of our physical wellbeing.
What biometrics will we be tracking?
Movement, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, blood oxygen level, perspiration rate, respiration, hydration, weight, posture, body fat, muscle activity, sleep quality, brain activity, blood glucose, and more.
The change won’t only be that wearables will be able to sense and track far more types of data, however. The data will be able to be shared, analyzed and used in predictive analysis to a far greater degree. This is the exciting part, especially for us at Intouch: the ability to build smarter applications that can provide better information than ever before to patients and caregivers.
For example, imagine Sally, whose device has detected her elevated heart rate and body temperature, along with last night’s poor sleep quality. It checks the local flu statistics, the health services appointment book and her schedule and is smart enough to put all that information together. It then tells Sally that she might be catching a cold, suggests rescheduling plans for a less strenuous day, offers an open appointment time with a nurse, and points out that her smart fridge is empty of fresh produce and OJ.
With daily increases in sensor capabilities, cloud computing, connections with other smart devices and predictive analysis, we will soon be able to help patients manage their health more proactively than ever before.
How the pharmaceutical industry will fit into this will be up to all of us. We’ve heard the phrase “beyond the pill” so often, but this is precisely the type of avenue to make that a reality for a pharma company willing to partner with a tech vendor. Pharma understands the complexities of diagnosis, treatment and adherence, as well as those of clinical trial biometric data analysis. A partnership like that could make huge strides, particularly into the management of chronic conditions. Why simply market a medication when you can also market a solution to make the medication perform to the best of its ability? The implications for insurance coverage are obvious.
The government, as well, would be smart to look into this (and it would be naïve to think they aren’t). Could anonymized data from wearables be funneled into public health collections for institutions like the Centers for Disease Control to analyze? The efficiencies and insights garnered for global health could be game-changing.
Health data can be monitored, collected and analyzed to an unprecedented degree with ever-more-amazing wearables — from wristbands to clothing to glasses and contacts to shoe insoles.
Pharma is an industry built upon understanding health data. It’s time to take that expertise and make magic.