Blog: The Consumerization of Digital Health

As technological innovation continues to outpace the evolution of healthcare practices, a fundamental shift is occurring. Patient centered care is no longer, having been replaced by consumer directed care. Consumers have shifted away from reactionary “sick” care options, opting to instead gravitate towards technology to monitor their own health and wellness. These technologies/devices are becoming the epicenter of patient health data, as informed consumers have learned to better understand the value of their data and how it should be utilized and shared. As a result, health tracking technologies shattered revenues in 2021, leaving healthcare organizations scrambling to meet basic interoperability standards in order to win patients and grow the community footprint.

It is evident that more change is coming to healthcare. As technology firms sharpen their focus on solving for consumer pain points within healthcare, more widely accessible solutions will further entrench the consumer at the top of the healthcare food chain, giving them options about how to manage their own health and wellness across their lifespan.

The Growing Influence of Consumer Health Tech

As the end user continues to drive innovation in both digital health and consumer technology, the lines between these segments are continuing to blur. Consumer technologies are replacing the traditional doctor’s office visit, arriving in our hands and on our wrists with FDA approved features. Remote continuous monitoring has become a consumer prevention strategy, allowing us to view our own data, understand the cool visualizations that come with capturing the quality of our sleep, stress, strain and recovery, and decide what insights warrant behavior change. Many risk factors of the most prevalent chronic diseases are being proactively mitigated by us, the consumer, so we don’t end up in the doctor’s office at all.

Medical device and digital health companies are also having to understand more about the needs of the end user. Additional resources are being invested in the user experience, and how the end user’s data is captured, stored, and securely maintained. Instead of traditional standalone medical devices, these technologies are becoming interconnected with other data streams and systems, and fully compatible with the piece of tech with interact with most – our smartphone.

How many times has someone said to you “All you have to do is download the app.”

The Ultimate Future of Wearables

Wearable technologies are today’s healthcare provider. Consumers invest a fee upfront to acquire (co-pay), pay ongoing to utilize the features so improvement can be made (prescription), and at the end of the day we view a precise report about how we performed (testing and diagnosis). All from the palm of our hand. However, it seems we are still limited in what we can track, monitor and change over time. If my preference was to have a daily output of my entire body systems and their function, I would not be able to get it today. That is the limitation of the smartphone. The wearable smart device is presently limited to cardiovascular and physiological health outputs. In order to unlock the full capabilities that monitoring our health and wellness can deliver, we need to look to the future, and the ultimate future of wearables is tied to Augmented Reality (AR).

Now, much has been written about the promise of AR, including how many anticipate it will replace the smartphone in the future. However, what AR will deliver is not really a debate. It will become the singular technology of our lives in the next decade and will connect us in way not yet realized. AR glasses and contact lenses will enable the connection between all monitoring systems and data streams, from our devices to our clothing and beyond. It will enable us to become disease prevention prosumers. But most importantly, AR will allow us to finally unlock the keys to brain health.

Brain Health Monitoring: The Next Healthcare Revolution

Undoubtedly, there is still so much about brain health we do not yet understand. Is it because we have not developed technologies to enable this to occur? Possibly. We will soon find out, as AR will be the key technology used to monitor brain, eye and mental health. Can you imagine getting a notification from your AR device advising you that mindfulness therapy is recommended after identifying indicators of cognitive degradation from stress? Or running your own eye exam and sending it to your optometrist virtually for a prescription? Perhaps you would even be notified of sleep, stress, strain and recovery quality in advance of your current wrist wearable, as indicators of these may be more rapidly identifiable before they are physiologically apparent downstream. Each will happen before 2030.

It will be interesting to see how consumers will leverage AR to take more control of their health and wellness needs. It will be even more interesting to see how healthcare organizations react to keep pace with consumers.