Patricia Mechael, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President, Personal Connected Health Alliance
Technology increasingly is becoming an integral part of everyday life. The alarming growth of diabetes and obesity and a rapidly aging population are fueling the demand for personal connected health technologies that facilitate health-related interactions between individuals and their health care providers and/or caregivers.
There’s an app for that
Connected health technologies — like mobile devices, smart clothing, smart homes and car sensors — are impacting all aspects of life. There are apps that help individuals keep track of their daily activity and inspire them to walk around the block. Wireless glucometers monitor blood sugar levels in real time, helping individuals take better care of themselves and offering the option to share data automatically with caregivers or health care providers. There are sensors that monitor heart rate or even sleep patterns and mood. Virtual reality is also opening up new areas of opportunity for pain management, which is a timely innovation in light of the recent opioid epidemic.
Recent research findings fully support the value and adoption of connected health technologies. For example, a 2015 survey by Ipsos reported that the number of U.S. adults who are currently using a connected health device or tool to help manage their health has more than doubled, to 21 percent. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults surveyed believe that connected health devices will be a part of their treatment plans in the future.
Physicians also reported that they are open to using patient-generated data from activity trackers, sensors and other personal health devices to inform diagnostic decisions. In addition, over 40 percent of doctors surveyed strongly agree that remote monitoring for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, can reduce unnecessary emergency department visits.
This is especially important as we consider the 78 million aging Baby Boomers who are beginning to require more health care services — a generation of consumers looking to maintain their independence, security and productivity as they age. Personal connected health technologies can provide a highly personalized, user-friendly and actionable experience that will help to motivate individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices and live longer, healthier lives.
Becoming health literate
Maintaining a state of health and wellbeing is a conscious choice that takes effort as well as insights into our individual and unique physiological, genetic, psychological and biological processes. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, which oversees one the largest publicly funded health care systems in the world, recently conducted a survey to determine how health literacy could impact health care quality and delivery. The survey found that high health literate respondents were much more likely than low health literate individuals to believe they have a personal responsibility to take care of their own health and were more likely to feel that they are equipped to engage in their health. Today, there are a proliferation of technologies and services to help make that easier.
Personal connected health aims to make health an effortless part of everyday life. Because health is personal!