Last month I offered up the idea of wearable health, focusing on technology, such as Fitbit, Jawbone, etc, as a driver of behavior modification. I envisioned a kind of turbo-charged health consciousness, led by devices you wear that (hopefully) keep you honest and accurate. But really all of the data suggest that wearable technology is barely in its infancy—the mad dash to launch looming on the horizon with a projected swift uptake. Kind of like phase 3 trials in the healthcare industry, with approval “coming soon.”
What is the real value in wearable technology?
The truth is, wearing a device and tracking all of your activity amounts to a kind of gamification on your wrist unless it’s taken to another level. What is this level? Perhaps connecting these devices to your electronic medical records (EMR) could be a beginning. After all, what’s the point of having all of this personal data if you can’t do something meaningful with it? By linking your wearable health to your physician’s database, your physician’s network could have the ability to measure health-altering behavior. Instead of having patients sit before their doctor and discuss what “might be” or how something “sort of is,” this kind of real-time tracking and data could make for a more detailed and beneficial office visit.
One way to think about it is as active management of one’s health. Wearable devices can serve to not only monitor, but incentivize better behavior because the progress is visible every step of the way. Taking an active role in one’s health may sound obvious, but so far most people don’t use the technology in this way nor are physicians benefiting yet from this self-directed management of one’s health. As wearable technology is adopted by the mainstream (as opposed to just the early adopters), we'll see the tremendous influence and impact of this technology.
For the record: linking wearable technology to personal health
So here we have it: wearable technology with real-time, activity-based data. Perfect, right? Well, not yet. Seems like the perfect opportunity to connect this data with our EMRs. The industry has gone to a lot of trouble to create this digital version of the paper charts found in the doctor’s office and subsequently make EMRs accessible to the healthcare industry at large, but aren’t we missing something? If we could connect the two—EMR with wearable technology, and vice versa—we might see a dramatic improvement in our overall healthcare system. The impact on an individual level, which would drive healthier and happier behavior, could have a substantial impact on the nation and its healthcare.
Make way for mainstream
The link between digital health records and wearable technology has the power to drive a healthier nation. Today, with EMRs mainstream, imagine what could happen if wearable devices were to catch up, what the impact could be to us as individuals and collectively. It could mean a real-time dialogue among patients and doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians, caretakers, and more. It could mean a new kind of behavior that's driven by technology platforms, and a profoundly different relationship to health.