A recent infographic from StartUp Health, 2013 Digital Health Funding Insights, illustrates the tremendous growth the digital health industry has experienced over just the last three years. This infographic shows where the money is flowing – including increasingly to household names like FitBit. Building on this, the news coming out of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) surrounding wearable devices (“wearables”) drove home the fact that interest in the concept of the quantified self is becoming less fad and more fact of life.
Image courtesy of Medical Practice Insider
And, if you’re still questioning the role and forthcoming impact of wearables, you may want to consider the investment Apple is making in this space. Moreover, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and ABI Research, the number of wirelessly-networked body sensor devices that connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet manufactured is expected to exceed the U.S. population within the year. Take a minute to absorb that particular statistic.
Still, what will all these wearables add up to? The problem with these tracking devices is that the useful data they capture isn’t connected, so to speak. Meaning the number of steps taken or minutes slept are useful facts that we use to make ourselves feel better about our health and wellness, but they’re not connected to the clinical teams who can use such data to impact personal and even population-based health. So, while entertaining, these devices currently lack the ability to create a more significant impact.
Which leads me to a question we’ve been discussing here at SHIFT – what needs to change to get more people engaged in closely tracking their own health and wellness? It’s this initial groundswell of adoption that will drive the development of a system that connects the individual data points we each collect on a day-to-day basis, and turns them into insights that can impact our lives.
As a former owner of a FitBit, I lost interest in using the tool after just two months. While motivating in that it mentally pushed me to jog that extra half mile or take walks on my lunch break, it was by no means addictive and there was no real incentive to keep using it. Which leads me to another related question we’ve been pondering, in order to increase adoption of wearables and, in turn, gather more data on a personal and population-based level, do we need our health insurers or employers to reward or penalize us based on engagement in the personal tracking of our health and well-being? It’s clear we need an incentive of some sort to transition from the quantified self to the connected self – but what’s the right approach to making this behavioral change a reality?
At the end of the day, the move toward the quantified self isn’t the interesting part. It’s not the wearables, be it glasses or bracelets, that are intriguing. It’s the idea that connecting these wearables, and all the data they’re amassing, might serve a greater good and allow us to uncover truths that will help us live longer, happier lives. With this is mind, I think we’ll find interest growing beyond wearables over the coming months with an increased focus being placed on enabling the connected self – much the same as we’ve seen with both the connected car and the connected home.