We’ve all heard about electronic health records, fitness apps for your smartphone, and wearable fitness trackers. Mobile health (mHealth) is no longer the new kid on the block. It’s here to stay, and now we’re moving into the phase where wearables are a part of the mainstream lifestyle.
How many of your friends, family members or co-workers have a MapMyRun app on their phone, or are wearing a FitBit? Chances are, a lot of them. In fact, Forrester reported in 2015 that 20 percent of Americans have admitted to owning and using a wearable fitness device.
Americans are increasingly taking more and more personal responsibility for their own well being, and the rise of wearables is helping them be successful.
The first crop of early adopters helped prove out the market demand for more and more health related technology. Items like the FitBit, Breeze and Health that were automatically added to iOS have shown that people want to collect, and most importantly, use their own health data to stay active, fit and healthy.
What is the future of mHealth?
The future is in some ways already here, but the use of data and the gamification aspect of health management are still very much in their infancy.
Big data is the newest frontier that needs to be explored. Collecting data is only as useful as your ability to use it. Bean counting for bean counting’s sake doesn’t help improve the world in any way. It doesn’t help with:
- The advancement of technology
- The growth of a business
- The betterment of our own personal health
The key to big data is in giving people the right data to look at and in a way that makes it easy for them to understand and take action. mHealth is leading the way in making Big Data useful to people in their everyday lives.
Two of the mHealth trends that are up and coming center around two major concepts:
Health insurance providers creating incentive-based fitness apps and programs
Products that allow providers and consumers to work together seamlessly to track personal health
Incentive based fitness programs via wearables
Companies like SocialWellth are teaming up with health insurance providers to create programs that allow their customers the ability to incentivize their fitness through an app on their smartphone or through the use of a wearable such as a FitBit.
By using these new mHealth products, the everyday person is able to be a more informed participant in staying healthy, because the products:
- Deliver useful content
- Provide data in an actionable and useful way to users
- Ensure the privacy and security of their personal data
A great example of this is SocialWellth’s “WellthyMoves” program. This program uses the connection with and the data from a participant’s wearable/smartphone to:
- Deliver relevant and useful content and data to the participant
- Connect the participant with others so they can work as a team or have a little healthy competition among themselves
- Gamifies activity by providing badges, currency and rewards for multiple levels of activity or behavior
- Fitness tracking and provider/patient partnering
All of this personal health data is great for you and I to see and use, but what about our healthcare providers? One of the missing pieces in mHealth is in sharing this data with our doctors so that they have a fuller picture of our overall health.
New apps are being built every day for just this purpose. Some are enterprise-level solutions that tie into the electronic medical record programs your provider is using, and some are more commercial products based on an ailment or disease like type 2 diabetes.
The upswing for the insurance companies, besides being able to offer superior services to their customers, is found in their ability to gain micro-insights into health trends that will allow them to iterate newer and better versions of these products and services to their customers.
It is safe to say wearables and mHealth are here to stay. While digital health is still in its infancy, it is growing by leaps and bounds every year. While it’s always fun to see the latest mobile device announcement or social media platform launch, mHealth advancements are even more amazing to see.
You and I directly benefit because with each new innovation we are brought one step closer to understanding our own health, and are able to stay healthier and live fuller lives as a result. It will be very interesting to see what’s next.