Telehealth: Is It A Fitness or Medical Wearable?

Our healthcare delivery is a rising concern in the United States as it affects everyone: our aging parents, your obese uncle or diabetic sister and even you.

Think about it — We are all aging with varying degrees of wellness. Some of our bodies age more gracefully than others, but as our bodies’ function declines our concern for mobility and living a life of continued independence become a priority. 80% of the elderly population have 2 or more chronic diseases and these are expensive yet treatable diseases that can be managed. Preventing the development of chronic conditions in the elderly could be the only way to improve life expectancy; perhaps new developments in the wearable sensor industry can address some of these issues by monitoring behaviors that might lead to diseases before health deteriorates.

Fortunately, with the rise of mobile technology, growing networks (Cloud platforms), and new computer technologies (Apps) we are seeing the mainstreaming of telemetry used as wearables today. The rise of smartphones with technologies such as 3G and 4G networks will further promote the adoption of mobile devices in most sectors, but with the most benefit, in the healthcare delivery system. The rise of telemedicine to monitor and manage chronic conditions can help reduce geographic barriers, cost of travel and time (from in-hospital to home consultations) and has the potential to offer seamless support and care to patients according to AlliedMarketResearch.


Infographic: Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. Adults Plan to Buy Wearable Tech  | Statista

According to Statista, 1 out of 5 adults in the U.S. plan to buy a wearable tech this year.

At CES 2014 last year, Scott Stein of CNET differentiated wearables into three categories: Notifiers, Trackers and Glasses.

We see many products which define the quantified-self movement — that which track our steps, monitor our heart rate and displays/share with our social networks — but what distinguishes a wearable as a medical device? This topic was this month’s discussion at the Activity Sensor & Personal Analytics Meet-Up held at Audience in Mountain View, CA. Gene Leybzon led the discussion and stated that medical wearables purpose is for diagnosis and treatment — and must pass a labyrinthine of regulatory and legal processes such as FDA and HIPAA. A fitness wearable does not have to pass the stringent regulatory tests and only needs to be informational and educational to the user. This user saturated market in fitness wearables (i.e. FitBit heart heart monitor, Nike FuelBand, Garmin & Polar speed tracker/pedometer, Spree body temperature tracker) may not be used for diagnostic purposes, but may be extremely helpful as it leads the path for medical wearables .

Proteus discussed the future release of an ingestible sensor that would integrate with medication allowing physicians to monitor compliance from a remote location. This is important for patients with diseases of the central nervous system (including multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), heart failure and possibly organ transplant patients. This innovation would track sustained patient compliance and provide assurance that medications are being taken in a timely manner for presiding physicians or caregivers and family loved ones.


  We also looked at a product called AliveCor, a heart rate monitor that detects atrial fibrillation.



Tech Eye Wear for Fashion, Sport and Future Integration

Google Creating Scarcity:

Today (April 15; Tax Day!) a limited number of Google’s smart glasses will be available for purchase but only for U.S. residents. That’s right, only today you can buy these lovely stylish glasses for a mere $1,500. and you don’t have to be one of Google’s chosen few in their ‘Explorer Program‘.

Google Glass

Google Glass. Fashion + Function.

On a humorous note, nothing says elitism more than these White Men Wearing Google Glass  as a Tumblr response to all the early adopters and made it as 45 Best Tumblr 2013. You see, previous purchasers of the Google Glasses had to have been referred by friends to purchase the glasses, and they tended to be developers and social media influencers. Google is aware of it’s “Glasshole” reputation of users who are misusing or not displaying social etiquette and have come up with their own guideline. I personally enjoyed reading Scott Biddle of ValleyWag humorous ‘Do’s & Don’t’ list for Glass Explorers that helps us poor souls from becoming  alienating socialpaths!


Will Samsung Differentiate Into the Sports Market?

Samsung's Heads-up Display

Samsung’s Heads-up Display


More manufacturers are entering the wearable market which helps propel the quantified-self movement where all one’s personal self-tracking data is stored and displayed for analysis.  Samsung has entered the heads-up display eye wear market along with their smart watches. It wouldn’t be surprising if (soon) the Samsung watches had microsensors on the back to collect heart rate / pulse and have that data displayed  on their glasses & watches or any other mobile device.  These patent eyewear images are described as having ear pieces for listening to music, but may also display auditory alerts while  exercising (perfect for adopting use with exercise apps such as RunKeeper).

The Cardo BK-1 headset is an excellent product

The Cardo BK-1 headset is an excellent product

I love the idea of having an ear piece to assist with situational awareness. As a road cyclist I constantly worry about safety; communicating the hazards on the road while riding with others is a very important part of cycling. Cyclists have developed hand signals to demonstrate potholes on broken asphalt, road barriers, open car doors and other potential hazards but also when riding as a group we will alert riders behind us of our actions (if we are slowing or stopping). The Cardo BK-1 headset isn’t part of my eye wear, it attaches to my helmet, but I can understand the great value Google Glass and Samsung sport glasses would have if they integrate an intercom unit to their ear piece. It seems, at least for now, the above wearables are going after a different market, but I enjoy the interception between fashion, sport and utility of a product. The function of the product must be comfortable and practical, but also have a decent price point in order for me to get excited and for mass market appeal.



Laws & Regulations Surrounding the Evolution of Telemedicine

This is a talk covering the legalities surrounding the adoption of telemedicine and electronic medical records. Today with the popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) it too also covers new ways of delivering healthcare.

We’ve Only Just Begun: Justifying Gamification in Health Care

Creative Commons- Creative

Creative Commons- Creative

The ever increasing trend of mobile being used in health care is creating greater access of information, anywhere and at any time, not only to you and me, but to health care professionals. Telemedicine, the ability to remotely monitor patients via Internet connection, is rapidly adopting smart phone or mobile apps. It’s a growing trend with 10,000 mobile health care apps allowing users to access electronic health records (EHR) according to Mobile Marketing Watch.  Not only does this allow doctors to monitor chronic diseases, which is the number one leading cost of expensive hospital bills, but it gives the opportunity for loved ones to also monitor granny’s diabetes or heart murmur at the convenience of her home.

As Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services and our current administration further push the use and adoption of  online EMR  we will see greater trust in the mobile technology and faster adoption rates (if HIPAA regulations are proving effective, protecting citizen’s rights to health care privacy).  According to ComScore report, approximately 70 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during a 3 month period (end November 2010 – Feb 2011) with folks accessing social networking sites (Facebook or MySpace)  increased 3.3 % and mobile gamers increased 2% during that time period.

comScore Reports February 2011 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share

comScore Reports February 2011 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share

With greater adoption rates of telemedicine and access of care, we will also see more consumer products with the ability for patients to record comments and share health data with friends. Sharing is big! In the consumer world video gaming is a huge industry with nearly three quarters of U.S. households  playing some form of video game  where scores are shared and motivation and pride is key to long term behavioral changes. Gamification of fitness and health to modify chronic diseases will be pervasive tools in disseminating  important health information, presented in a fun, interactive way. Can you image a mobile app that can display, record and transmit your health data AND be shared with your social networks? (Hint: These tools already exists!)

This weekend I spend my time at PAX, Seattle’s yearly gaming conference featuring consoles, PC and table games. It’s a massive conference, nothing like the dental conventions that I’ve been accustomed to attending; It’s a lot more fun (and you get better swag than toothbrushes!). The gaming industry is growing leaps and bounds, in fact, three quarters of all U.S. families play games and 72% of those play computer or video games according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

“Entertainment software is now one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy. And video games are driving technological and societal advancements that serve gamers and non-gamers alike. From education, to health, to business, the computer and video game industry is helping Americans lead healthier, happier and more productive lives.”

Games can be used for the following:

  •     Physical fitness
  •     Rehabilitation
  •     Behavioral changes
  •     Medical training

The next post will feature a few examples of the telehealth products which are great at monitoring behavior changes to improve health via games.