Codrin Arsene is a digital marketer and senior product manager. His areas of expertise include digital marketing strategies, UX design, bottom-of-funnel conversion, and optimization. You can make his day by following him on Twitter @csarsene.
The world (and Wall Street) is certainly keeping a close eye on the Internet of Things industry as a whole. Smart watches, smart fitness trackers, smart TVs, locks, baby monitors, fans, thermostats. It’s a “smart everything” frenzy among companies in the electronics world.
Yet among all these smart products, there is one vertical in particular I think will emerge as an unexpected product category next year.
It is the smart healthcare industry.
The Consumer Electronics Show that took place at the beginning of January in Vegas already showed us quite a few promising innovations in this field. Technological advancements in 2017 will help busy people take care of their health and body through quick, on-the-fly exercises, games, and incentives.
We see products that are going to help / remind sick people to take their medicine, in what dosage and at what time intervals. We see smart devices that will provide on-the-go diagnostics capabilities for people who cannot afford to go to a hospital. We see a proliferation of sensors being released to the market for virtually every part of your body, actively monitoring customers’ health and sending in critical vital signals to centralized systems that can help prevent catastrophic events.
What are the trends that smart healthcare enthusiasts should be excited about?
Smart healthcare industry will continue its growth through 2020
The smart healthcare segment is positioned to grow by 25% annually from 2016 through 2020, according to ReportsnReports.com. A sizable portion of the growth will be due to electronic health records as well as the use of big data solutions and analytics to make healthcare-related processes more nimble, efficient and accurate.
Additionally, the high premium healthcare costs expected to hit double-digit increases in 2017 are making customers more concerned with proactive health monitoring options and low-cost alternatives to traditional healthcare providers and services. That is why McKinsey & Company is predicting that starting in 2017, consumers will actively look into creating health-management ecosystems fueled by Internet of Things devices.
Big-data analytics has also ushered the uptick in adoption of smart healthcare products, with the data gathered being used to understand patient behavior, as well as to monitor health conditions, specifically among the elderly population.
All these shifts in the market are positively impacting the growth of the smart healthcare industry, giving momentum to companies operating in this field and creating demand from the consumer side. This, in turn, is driving up both the supply and the demand side for the smart healthcare industry, fueling its growth into the next decade.
The futures of smart healthcare and Internet of Things are intertwined
The Internet of Things will have a lot of applications in smart healthcare – and it may very well be the driving force behind it!
We are already seeing wearable technologies that help you fight health conditions that otherwise would be more difficult to manage. For example, Neogia has a smartwatch called MOTIO HW, which helps users fight sleep apnea. The smart watch monitors people’s sleep patterns and detects when they stop breathing (in case of an apnea). Aside from its sensors, the watch also uses artificial intelligence to learn more about the patient’s behavior.
Then you have IoT devices that allow you to continuously monitor healthcare-related signs and metrics without being too intrusive. TempTraq is a smart patch that allows you to monitor and log temperatures, then sends the data to your smartphone. This means that you no longer have to wake up to your crying baby in order to check if the fever has died down or not. On the other hand, QardioCore functions as a heart monitor that you wear across your chest. You use a free mobile app to get information on heart rate, skin temperature, activity levels, ECG, and respiratory rate.
IoT devices can also help you get personalized health monitoring. Take for instance the Mio Slice, which works like an activity and fitness tracker that monitors the number of steps you’ve taken, calories burned, heart rate, sleep quality, and distance walked, and then gives you a personal score that ensures everything you’re doing is healthy for you. The device also checks your body’s responses to your other activities.
There are also assistive IoT devices, such as the Aira smart glasses that help visually impaired people to “see” their surroundings.
In 2017 and beyond we will see hundreds, if not thousands, of products catering to specific use cases that will drive up the adoption of healthcare IoT devices and their increase in popularity and sales. In our view, the future of IoT and smart healthcare are very closely intertwined.
Apps are improving the effectiveness of doctors everywhere in the world
It is not just IoT devices that are propelling the smart healthcare industry into the future. Mobile apps are playing their role as well in this transformation.
In the medical field, apps are already empowering patients to email their doctors the results of their electrocardiograms, saving a lot of time and work. In the future, even more complicated tests will be run and completed on apps.
Lots of apps are actually designed for physicians themselves, including drug and disease databases and high-class monitoring devices, making their jobs easier.
Some doctors already credit these apps for being time-savers, speeding up the process of diagnosis, and limiting unnecessary doctor and hospital visits to cut down on taxing resources. Some of these appraised mobile apps that are very popular among doctors in North America include Epocrates, Medscape and MedCalc.
Bottomline: the Smart Healthcare industry has the potential to become better, smarter, more efficient and effective in 2017. And mobile apps play a big role in it!
Blockchain technology will allow for inter-device data sharing and personalized recommendations
The level of fragmentation in the IoT space, as well as the lack of comprehensive inter-device integrations, make it difficult to maximize the value of smart healthcare devices. For now, the closest success story in the field is tied to smart homes, where users can use voice commands to simultaneously work the lights, play music, and set the temperature the way they want it.
We’re not there yet with smart healthcare products. Most devices do their own thing, store data on their own and pretty much do everything in silos. For now, the overwhelming majority of companies operating in the smart healthcare field are not opening their APIs to other companies for further integration, forcing consumers to use countless apps to monitor their health.
One surprising way to move away from these silos is a technology which so far has only been leveraged in the financial space: blockchain. Blockchain technology has the potential to solve interoperability problems that are present in storing and sharing electronic health data securely. It is the same technology that is used for bitcoins and other crypto-currencies.
While most of the applications right now are focused on electronic health data, blockchain technology can also be used in IoT smart healthcare devices. The data collected by your smart watches, fitness trackers and other devices use are usually stored in the cloud. That in itself is no guarantee of the security of your personal health data, but blockchain can help make it more secure.
With the reduced risks from unauthorized use and access of personal health data, it will also be more feasible to add data collected from smart healthcare devices to patient records. If this data is added to the cloud into a centralized ledger, it can then be made available to other IoT devices. If that happens, various healthcare related devices can finally “talk” to each other and then make targeted, personalized recommendations to their users based on the various data points shared across smart healthcare devices.
In short, blockchain technology has the potential to free up the personal data that your smart healthcare devices gather, and then add them to your health records to ensure a more comprehensive health record and give users and health professionals better insights, tips and suggestions to improve patients’ health.
Consumers are becoming more willing to share their private health data with companies and healthcare professionals
It is no surprise that the technology exists, but the best thing going for smart healthcare is that people’s attitudes have become more open to having their health data shared in exchange for better health monitoring, healthcare and convenience.
For instance, a recent study showed that close to three out of every four millennials are interested in using a mobile app to manage their health, schedule medical appointments and access health records. More than six out of ten millennials would provide healthcare professionals access to data that their wearable devices have collected about them. Additionally, 60% of millennials are open to using video chats and other tele-health channels to consult with their doctors.
Smart healthcare is proving to be a dynamic and exciting area with lots of room for growth due to recent innovations in this space and the growing consumer demand for proactive health monitoring devices. These shifts in market demand are fueling the market growth, encouraging more and more companies to think of creative ways to build, launch and monitor electronic devices that can really improve our collective lives.
Smart healthcare isn’t cool, hip, trendy or fun. But it is probably going to have a more meaningful, real and profound impact on us as a society than many recent innovations in other fields, as we discussed in our in-depth report, The Future of Healthcare: How Mobile Medical Apps Give Control Back to Us.
Smart healthcare is a huge market opportunity, and we are excited to see it grow and get mass adoption in 2017. Which is why we think that this year might just be the year that smart healthcare becomes less of a buzzword and more of a necessity.