According to the Pew Internet Project’s research related to health and health care, 7 out of 10 U.S. adults personally track at least one health indicator including blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches or sleep patterns. And 12% of U.S. adults track a health indicator on behalf of someone they care for. Given many of us are digital pioneers and healthcare communicators, one would assume tracking means on a smart phone or digital device. However, 49% of those who claim they keep track of a health indicator do so “in their heads” and 34% claim they keep track in a journal or notebook.
Companies such as Google, Apple and start-up entrepreneurs rightfully see a large scale opportunity to create, improve and enhance the way we as a society track not only our own health (see my colleague’s recent blog post: Tech Giants Stepping into the World of Health), but also for those we care for including elderly parents and babies. Furthermore, there is an opportunity to help turn that collected data into something valuable.
In the October issue of Fast Company, the magazine highlights the newest high-tech monitors to keep tabs on health (they’ve dubbed this week Wearables Week, too). Whether its a tool for HCPs and caregivers to track a patient’s vital signs over the internet (Healthnet) or monitor people who are prone to falling (Lifeline GoSafe), or the ability to follow a baby’s health and sleep pattern (Sproutling), all of these health digital tools, and the many others that are on the horizon, have great societal and individual implications.
Creating an even more empowered healthcare consumer, these tools have the potential to help save on patient healthcare expenses, ease worry, create a more efficient interaction during HCP appointments and manage the health of your loved ones. Collectively, these tools have the ability to further shift our healthcare landscape from that of a reactive environment to one that is more focused on prevention. Baby boomers on their paths to retirement are fairly tech savvy and are more concerned with preventive health than ever before. These boomers want to stay out of hospitals and save costs — what better way than digital to have the means to take further control of their health?
Our next challenge as healthcare communicators is to think through how this data can best be used in meaningful ways during real patient/doctor interactions. As an industry, we need to engage HCPs early and often in the dialogue of developing these products, so there is assurance that personal health data collected is valid. Additionally, we need to explore how to best integrate this data with medical provider processes and within the doctor-patient relationship.
Welcome to the age of the Healthy Selfie!