The health care industry has always wanted complete daily data on patients internal health indices—blood pressure, glucose level—as a way to pre-empt costly medical problems. Now, a number of companies, some start-ups and some established, appear to be making serious progress. Kaiser Health News lists some examples in a recent piece on the field’s development:
Apple, Adidas, Samsung, GPS maker Garmin, audio tech company Jawbone, and gaming hardware manufacturer Razer are developing products that measure biological functions at ever faster clips. Startups across the country are creating gadgets such as pill boxes that can monitor whether patients are taking their meds and under-the-mattress sensors that measure heart rate, breathing and movement. Microsoft HealthVault — Microsoft’s web-based electronic health records platform — lets doctors access data from fitness trackers like Fitbit or Nike+ Fuel Band and glucose and heart monitors that patients have uploaded themselves. It’s an attempt to create a one-stop shop for health information.
There are two big obstacles preventing these technologies from taking off. First, getting the data from the companies that collect it and then putting it into medically useful form is challenging. Second, individuals and watchdog groups concerned about privacy are skeptical about using these platforms to gather and store their health information.But there are crucial reasons to find creative solutions to those obstacles and push ahead with these experiments in mobile health tech. Illnesses typically cost less to treat in their early stages than their later ones. Having the capability to detect early warning signs and administer preventive treatment could save the US health care system a whole lot of money. In addition, these devices allow doctors to monitor patients with diabetes or other chronic diseases. Refusing or forgetting to take regular medication for chronic illness is another big driver of health care costs that mobile tracking systems can reduce. The faster these Mobile and E-health technologies grow, the cheaper and more efficient health care delivery will be. And the cheaper and more efficient health care delivery is, the better the US system will work—and the easier it will be to expand access to the uninsured.