When discussing the Internet of Things (IoT) and the healthcare industry, wearables are probably the first thing to come to mind for many. If you’re still not sure of the definition, Wikipedia describes the IoT as “the network of physical objects, devices, vehicles, buildings and other items which are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.” For those who missed the mass volume of fitness advertisements that flooded the January media scene, wearable technology means clothing and accessories that incorporate computer and advanced electronic software or sensors. A few notable wearables to gain popularity so far include the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Jawbone. It fairly common to see runners checking their heartrates with a wearable device.
However, tech accessories are just the tip of the IoT iceberg in the healthcare industry. A recent eMarketer report mentioned that the IoT is assisting in an era in which data is seamlessly collected, discussed and analyzed. While many believe that wearables are just a fad and will soon be forgotten, these devices seem to be at the forefront of an evolution within today’s healthcare industry.
Americans have become more health-conscious over recent years. This trend is seen across all generations and has affected many behavioral habits. Today’s consumers are more mindful of their health, and wearables allow them to use these new technologies to manage their health in ways that were not possible before.
Many would assume the demand for convenience along with a high level of care within the healthcare industry is a result of the changing US population. With the Millennials (people born between 1977 and 1994 – or between the ages of 21 and 38 as of December 31, 2015) now 72.3 million strong, their generation is the next big wave to become healthcare decision makers. While the cliché is that IoT is a young person’s domain, a recent McKinsey survey showed consumers over the age of 65 are just as intrigued by effective and trustworthy websites and apps as younger generations.
A possible side effect of the Affordable Care Act is higher medical co-pays. This has been a factor in making consumers more selective, and having higher expectations, about the level of care they receive. As more people experience the convenience that wearables offer, they are growing more receptive and trusting of the new technologies that capture and analyze their health without ever having to step foot inside a doctor’s office.
Will family practitioners and healthcare networks be able to keep up with today’s app and website advances? As healthcare consumers continue to embrace the responsibility of managing their own healthcare, organizations inside and outside the healthcare industry are beginning to explore ways to put the IoT to work. Below are some examples of what is hot in the healthcare industry in addition to the Fitbit and its competitors.
Smart Tattoo: Can accomplish a number of things from measuring sun exposure (L’Oréal), or monitoring glucose levels for diabetics.
ExmoBaby: Smart pajama garment for babies with a sensor to show parents if baby is sleeping, vital signs, etc. It can include texts and alerts to parents.
TeleHealth: The delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies. The service allows patients to receive consultation from medical professionals with limited wait time from the convenience of their own home.