Though they’re pretty, interesting and fun, I’ve never taken wearable devices that seriously as a force that could have impact on healthcare delivery in the here and now. Well, it seems that I was wrong. While it’s not certain that the health system can afford these devices — they don’t exactly come in at an easy consumer price point — it seems consumers are ready to use them if given the chance.
According to a new study by Accenture, more than half of consumers “are interested in buying wearable technologies such as fitness monitors for tracking physical activity in managing their personal health,” according to a report in Health IT Outcomes.
According to Accenture, consumers were primarily interested in devices like smart watches and wearable smart glasses such as Google Glass, even though these devices are not yet available commercially. Consumers were also very interested in phablets, an emerging device category combining smart phone and tablet PC functions.
I can’t help think that this is a very positive trend. For one thing, consumer wearables can be an important gateway to remote patient monitoring, something that’s less likely with devices that are used and put aside, like wired glucose monitors, pulse oximeters and blood pressure cuffs.
What’s more, wearables can fit into a healthcare ecosystem in which devices talk to one another and other wireless systems (such as their desktop, laptop or smart phone), whereas the other smart devices I’ve mentioned have less flexibility in that arena.
So, who pays for the wearables? At least at first, it will probably make more sense for providers to invest in these devices and use them to conduct tests of remote patient monitoring and its impact on care.
But as consumers pick up the wearables themselves, providers might want to focus on building a network which seamlessly integrate these devices, as it seems almost a given that consumers will buy them when they’re available and affordable. It will take years to get that right, so now it’s probably time to start. Get prepared for the Internet of everything!