Wireless Monitoring Technology Makes It Personal

by Mark Wechsler | Arrow Systems Integration

My physicians and health insurance company are increasingly interested in keeping me healthy. I communicate with them regularly. Informally we use web and chat. Formal encounters occur during office visits and discussions with health counselors. I receive coaching on nutrition, exercise, and rest. They periodically check in to see if I am staying the course or falling into bad habits.

Interest in my personal health is also attracting the attention of businesses that I don’t normally think of as part of the traditional healthcare industry. Consumer companies are getting into the game with the development of wireless monitoring technology. Maybe this is because healthcare providers and payers are frequently technology adoption laggards. They are not keeping pace with the almost breakneck speed in which consumers are embracing mobile devices and applications.

A good example of where consumer oriented companies are overtaking traditional healthcare companies is in the area of wireless monitoring technology for personal use. Nike, Fitbit and others offer noninvasive inexpensive monitors used to collect health related data. Simple armbands or sensors that sense glucose levels, heart rate, and activity levels are becoming common place. Many of these devices have complimentary smart phone and PC applications that aggregate the information and report it in an easily understandable format.

While the market is just starting to blossom, conservative estimates indicate it will triple in the next 3 years. Jawbone, a company most often associated with Bluetooth headsets, provides an interesting glimpse into the future of what the healthcare consumer might be see. Their UP Wristband is a popular wearable device capable of monitoring activity (e.g., footsteps and speed.) Earlier this year Jawbone purchased Massive Health, whose objective is to apply your personal health data to help manage your well being. Last week Jawbone announced their acquisition of Body Media, a major player in the wearable device market. BodyMedia’s FIT products take monitoring to a new level. These devices track things like skin temperature and galvanic skin response (an indicator of work intensity.) It seems as though Jawbone might be evolving into a full-fledged supplier of personal health monitors.

Collecting and reporting an individual’s biometrics is becoming easier. We are finding it easier to use and rely on this information to guide our actions. As we become more accountable for our well being and these devices become more prevalent healthcare providers and payers will surely become interested in using this information to provide us feedback and advice.

The intersection between the consumer and the bona fide healthcare provider/payer market may soon blur. Don’t be surprised if you encounter discussions regarding personal wireless monitoring technology. Interest in the use of advanced communication services to access information collected from personal monitors is real. Healthcare payer and provider wellness programs will soon be looking to take advantage of these innovations in an effort to reduce costs and improve care.

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