In 2011, Steve Jobs said that the biggest breakthroughs of the 21st century are going to happen at the crossroads of biology and technology. Four years to the day, we couldn’t agree more. As consumers demand quicker access to a wide range of health care, reduced costs, and control over treatment, the medical community is collaborating with technology to make their experience more personal than ever – a trend called the ‘Internet of Me’.
According to an Accenture Consulting report, “The Internet of Me really allows patients/ consumers to get information that’s highly customized to who they are, what they’ve done, and what their preferences are, so the experience is driven by real context, not just a patient handout that everyone gets.” Think of apps and wearables like Fitbit, Runtastic, Healthtap, etc. Each of these is programmed to gather specific data from its dedicated user, tracking of health parameters like weight, blood-pressure, body temperature, and what not! This not only facilitates a better understanding of our health, but also enables us to notice anomalies immediately. And, this patient generated digital data is more accurate than self-reports! People have challenged this desire to track daily health parameters, believing that it feeds dependence on technology. However, it has been estimated that in USA, everyday behaviors lead to conditions that cause 40% of premature deaths. That isn’t a minor statistic!
Though the concept of patient generated data is not new, its merger with technology is adding two more revolutionary trends, to the current repertoire.
- Improved short-term care: The quality of care a patient receives post treatment/ surgery for a major illness, determines the quality of recovery s/ he has. So far, our doctors offer short-term care planning in written, and probably revisit it every two weeks. But, with patient generated digital data through apps, we can be monitored daily and care-plans customized on demand. Apps can track our activity, sending us reminders for exercises or intake of medication. The result is then communicated to the doctor through data networks. When collected and monitored across a specific patient population, such data can support identification of individuals who are most prone to complications and potential readmission. As per a Deloitte survey, preventing such readmission can save approximately $17.5 billion for the healthcare industry.
- Emergency management: Chronic diseases account for 70% deaths in USA and a huge chunk of health expenditure is dedicated to management of such illnesses. For people experiencing these illnesses, interactions with the doctor are only scheduled at given intervals. But, with the strides technology is making today, wearables and sensors connected to data networks can detect occurrence of dangerous events like pulmonary obstructions, fluctuation of blood glucose levels, or sudden relapses of depression. Such health-tech is also increasingly being used for elderly care, through devices which detect falls and help in navigation, regulate diet/medication, and crate safety alerts. This helps elderly people be more independent.
Though these trends might indicate larger volumes of data, as well as continuous monitoring of the same to derive useful information, the direction it is taking heath-tech in, is undeniable. How do you wish to experience this?