Mike Allen: “Health 2.0 leaders provide an important perspective on the rapidly changing health and medical technology marketplace.”
Indu Subaiya and Matthew Holt, co-founders of the highly successful Health 2.0 conferences, have hosted more than 11,000 attendees and introduced over 500 technology companies to the world stage since 2006; their sponsors include industry leaders Kaiser Permanente, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Nokia, Walgreens, Cigna and United Healthcare.
Holt and Subaiya used their unique industry perspective as the basis for a keynote talk on Five Key Health Technology Trends at their flagship Health 2.0 Annual Conference held in Silicon Valley earlier this month. Below is a summary of these trends and their implications for employers, health plans, insurers and brokers:
1. Self-tracking is going mainstream. Smartphone Apps and tracking devices like FitBit, Jawbone and MyFitnessPal are rapidly expanding beyond their initial market of young, hip, tech savvy “quantified selfers”. As mainstream Americans and physicians increasingly adopt these technologies, App developers are positioning their products to meet the needs of this broader market. Some key developments include:
- Well respected organizations like the Mayo Clinic are validating the clinical effectiveness of tracking devices which is speeding adoption in the medical community. See Mayo’s recently published report about the use of Fitbit to predict recovery from heart surgery.
- App and device makers are consolidating to offer more comprehensive product lines. For instance, Jawbone recently purchased BodyMedia and added 87 patents and a line of FDA Class II medical devices to its’ extensive line of trackers.
- Developers are increasingly providing APIs (application programming interfaces) to facilitate integration with other platforms. At the same time, insurers like Aetna have developed APIs to encourage interfaces with their health and wellness platforms.
As tracking goes mainstream, employers can increasingly find tracking solutions which improve medical outcomes, have a high level of medical credibility and provide the sophisticated technical and customer support required by corporate buyers.
2. New “augmented reality” tools such as Google Glass will change the delivery of medical services. Like the Apple iPad before it, Holt believes that Google Glass will create a whole new ecosystem of medical apps and other software. Physicians will use Glass to access checklists, instructional materials and images at the point-of-care, record patient conversations and consult with experts during surgery. Equally important, software is being developed to analyze the vast quantities of data gathered by Glass to improve physician performance.
Another example of an augmented reality tool is Ellie, the emotion reading robot that analyzes facial expressions, gestures and voice inflections to help mental health practitioners interpret what patients are telling them. Advances in motion sensors, nano-devices, optical tools and big data analytics will provide savvy employers with many more new, reality enhancing tools that can be used at workplace clinics and as part of health and safety programs.
3. Clinical data sharing with patients will go to scale as years of work on Health Information Exchanges (HIE) begins to pay out. Holt cited the HIE developed by the New York Health Collaborative which shares data among 200 hospitals and includes a well-designed patient portal. In addition to the HIE projects underway in most American markets, the government is expanding their Blue Button project which provides medical records online for those covered by the Veterans Administration, and the departments of Defense and HHS.
As patient portals and electronic medical records become pervasive, employers will need to be prepared to provide interfaces with data from wellness and workers’ compensation programs to provide a more complete understanding of the patient and their health.
4. Increasing transparency of medical prices – Data released this summer by CMS underscores the potential savings from improved price transparency. According to the agency, the top 100 inpatient procedures at 3,400 hospitals showed “significant variation in average charge from hospital to hospital, including those within the same community locus.”
As noted in a previous post, employers are increasingly using medical price-shopping tools like those offered by Castlight, Pokitdok, GoodRx to help employees reduce medical costs.
5. The definition of “health” will be expanded as the medical profession increasingly learns to improve population health by managing non-medical factors such as job stress, care-giving burden, financial worries, state-of-mind and even sex life.
Employers like General Electric are already using aggregated data from employer-sponsored mobile Apps that track activity levels, sleep patterns and moods. A demo of this system by MedHelp is available at the Health 2.0 site and is discussed at a previous Tech Talk post titled New Advances in Big Data Improve Healthcare.
Improved tools for self-tracking, augmented reality, clinical data sharing and medical price shopping provide many opportunities to re-define and re-engineer health, wellness and workers’ compensation programs.
If your organization has been standing on the sidelines wondering how to take advantage of these new technologies, the time has come to move ahead or be left behind. A good starting point is this site’s App Directory which identifies 33 categories of solutions for employer health, wellness, workers’ comp and safety programs.