Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And Health

Joseph Miles

From Fitbits to smart watches, health-focused wearables are perhaps one of the best IoT innovations to show immediate benefits. These devices provide individuals with instant feedback on everything from the number of steps they walked to the effectiveness of a cardio workout. The industry is growing. No longer is it focused just on consumer applications; it’s reached well beyond into health monitoring.

Adoption of IoT-connected wearables captivates consumers and manufacturers

Engagement platforms like wearables are touching a wide range of consumer lifestyle sectors. They collect data from devices worn by consumers and then provide insight, information, and even rewards to users. More importantly, they provide important data that can do everything from encouraging better fitness to diagnosing health conditions.

The advantages are multi-faceted. The consumer benefits first and foremost with more information about his or her health and a better ability to choose a healthcare plan, make fitness decisions, and even navigate complex medical issues. Medical science benefits, too. It is now possible for doctors to use information from such platforms to make research-based decisions and even diagnose and treat health conditions.

Wearables encourage better fitness

Wearables, which are usually simply designed and worn on the wrist to avoid interfering with daily tasks, are the simplest of this type of engagement platform. These devices transmit information over a receiver or Bluetooth technology to end users, who can use the data to make decisions about health. According to IDC, of the 23 million wearables shipped in the third quarter of 2016, 85% were fitness-focused products.

Consumers love this type of technology for many reasons. For one, it provides motivation; knowing you have 1,000 steps to go to reach your daily goal encourages you to keep walking. For another, knowing you’ve surpassed your target heart rate encourages you to slow down during a workout. However, the information can also provide long-term benefits. Companion apps can track a person’s health and fitness over a period of time, and these devices make it easy to communicate with relevant third parties, such as doctors or insurance providers.

Health insurers benefit from better monitoring, better health

Health insurers understand the value that such engagement platforms offer, and many are willing to provide discounts to members who become more active and engaged using IoT and other connectivity resources.

A provision in the U.S. Affordable Care Act allows employers and health insurers to offer wellness incentives. For example, employees who agree to wear a fitness or activity tracker can receive rewards or discounts on medical costs. Even after spending money on an activity-tracking device, participants can see overall savings when their incentives are factored in.

This makes sense when you consider the benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 86 million have pre-diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, the annual U.S. cost of diagnosed diabetes is $245 billion a year, much of which is paid for by health insurers. However, many people with this condition can benefit from becoming more active, eating better quality food, and tracking their blood sugar levels more consistently – potentially reducing the onset of the condition and its costs, all of which can be enabled by wearables and other connected tools.

For example, a University of Mississippi study that used a mobile Internet device to help people with diabetes track their blood sugar resulted in fewer hospital visits and better disease control, producing a $339,184 savings in ER visits alone among the 85 people enrolled in the study.

Keeping patients healthier

mHealth, the term used to describe the use of mobile devices to transmit health-related information, is already a $23 billion industry, and it is expected to grow more than 35% over the next three years, according to SNS Research.

This connectivity enables doctors to remotely track their patients’ well-being and intervene when the data shows emerging problems. For example, wearable devices that transmit data on blood sugar, heart rate, heart rhythm, blood clots, and so forth can enable doctors to better track, diagnose, manage, and treat patients.

Ting Shih, CEO and founder of mHealth company ClickMedix, says smartphones and wearables are perhaps the most important life-saving technologies in the health industry today, in part because they “are affordable enough that almost anybody in the world can have access to one.” He says wearables enable the healthcare industry to “collect data as never before. We can actually get to the next level of healthcare delivery.” This is changing the world.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Joseph Miles

About Joseph Miles

Joseph Miles is Global Vice President pf Life Sciences at SAP. He is passionate about helping organizations improve outcomes for their patients and enable innovation across the health sciences value chain.