From biosensors to better habits: How our relationship with our health will change in 2021
By Rianne Meijerman (Head of Consumer Marketing) and Jeroen Tas (Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer)
Estimated reading time: 7-9 minutes
Like most people, our routines have changed since lockdown. Between the two of us, one is struggling to do enough exercise, while the other is having sleep issues. New research suggests that we’re not alone: worldwide demand for both real bicycles and virtual spin classes has gone through the roof as people try to find new ways to stay fit. And while studies show that as consumers, we’re cooking more from scratch and spending more quality time with the family, we’re also more likely to suffer from insomnia.
It’s fair to say that health has never been this present in the world’s collective consciousness. So, as we head towards the final months of an unsettling year, it feels like a good time to reflect on recent developments and how they will change our relationship with our health and care providers in 2021.
Lockdown has created a lot of anxiety around health. We hear consumers asking: Am I doing this right?
Head of Consumer Marketing, Philips
1. We’ll measure and monitor our own health
The healthcare industry has been urging people to take control of their own health for years. Now there’s a real urgency to do so.
In 2021, as consumers we will know even more about COVID-19 and the risk associated with existing conditions, and consequently more about our own health, than a year ago. We will have a better understanding of how our behaviors – such as social distancing, food, sleep and exercise – impact our health. Many will become tuned to look out for telltale symptoms and to share them to get tested, so long as the platform is secure and respects privacy. This may explain why more of us than ever are using smartwatches to track our fitness levels and any changes in our resting heart and respiratory rates, both of which are potential red flags for infection.
We’re seeing a rising number of behavior change platforms with AI components designed to coach consumers towards making healthy choices.
Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer, Philips
2. We’ll start to make our health insights actionable
There is still so much we don’t know about the coronavirus. But some believe that a strong immune system gives us more chance of having only mild symptoms when contracted.
One of the best things we can do for our immune system is to get enough sleep, yet half of us are sleep deprived For some, the cause is related to behaviors like staying up late working or scrolling through our phone in bed. But the cause may also be clinical: many suffer from undetected sleep apnea.
This raises one of the most important questions in the field of consumer health: How can people be encouraged to analyze their health and turn insights into healthy choices themselves?
Often it comes down to confidence. We don’t know what problems we have or what solutions to seek to tackle them. Lockdown has also created a lot of anxiety around health. At Philips, we hear consumers asking: do I understand this correctly? Am I doing this right?
Smart devices and apps help to give people insights and tools to take control of their own health. One example of how they do this is through behavior change platforms, which are designed to coach users towards making healthy choices, sometimes with the help of peers. Instead of suggesting generic solutions for the average person, they guide the user towards understanding their own struggles and help them to choose their own solutions. For an example, watch this clip about how a paramedic called Deantre took charge of his sleep.
3. We’ll connect to our caregivers virtually
While smart devices can give consumers more control, they cannot replace the advice and support of professionals. Out of necessity, this pandemic has also brought virtual care to the forefront, infusing traditional healthcare with more digitalization and data sharing than ever before.
Since very few people could get to the doctor or dentist during lockdown, healthcare providers started offering virtual appointments. In oral care, tele-dentistry has enabled patients to consult dentists remotely by sharing images of their teeth via their smartphone. And since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in adoption.
At Philips, we have launched a smart patch with a biosensor. This is part of a solution to monitor high risk people with chronic conditions in their homes, connecting them to remote care teams, using smart technology and integrated data. It helps to prevent the need for these vulnerable people to come to hospital for regular checks, which eases the burden on hospital staff. At the same time, it ensures that they’re continuously monitored and that their care teams are alerted if the system detects early signs of deterioration.
4. Our homes will support holistic health goals
With this urgent desire for more insights into our own and our loved ones’ health, combined with the likelihood of new localized lockdowns for the foreseeable future, our homes will increasingly become the place where we work on long-term health goals. We will exercise, cook, sleep and virtually visit our doctor at home.
More of us are using connected devices with smart capabilities to support healthy living and preventative measures. For example, Philips has recently partnered with the US’s largest dental insurer Delta Dental of California to provide guided oral hygiene. When consumers use their Philips Sonicare DiamondClean toothbrush, it shares their brushing data with the app, which in turn offers coaching to help the user improve his or her brushing routine. This is especially important for diabetics, for whom good oral health care habits can help decrease their overall health risk.
5. Health will become a cornerstone of the community
Another rapidly emerging trend during this pandemic is a strong sense of community in order to support each other’s health. We expect healthcare teams to be extended to “care circles”, complementing professional teams with peers, neighbors, friends and family.
One example concerns the importance of vaccinations. At Philips, we’ve partnered with the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to raise awareness about vaccinations through our Baby+ app. Parents or parents-to-be can use the in-app vaccination tracker to find out about the type of vaccinations their baby needs in their community, and how they can get them through local providers. We hope that over time, the data that the parents share will also help to provide insights into the population health of their communities.
Another example sees healthcare providers and companies share what they’ve learned about treating COVID-19 patients in intensive care units with their counterparts across the same country or even across the globe.
It’s inspiring to hear about and be part of because ultimately, this is what we all crave: a healthier life for ourselves, our families and our communities. This new normal may be different for each of us. But our shared objectives are the same.
 In the latest Philips sleep survey, nearly half of the 13.000 people surveyed stated they are not getting enough sleep and about 60% is interested in information and strategies to get better sleep.
Rianne Meijerman is the Head of Consumer Marketing of Royal Philips, overseeing portfolio and brand management, consumer engagement strategy, and media optimization across the company's consumer-facing businesses. She also is responsible for administrating Philips' digital and direct-to-consumer marketing transformation.
Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer
Jeroen is an experienced global executive and entrepreneur with a track record of leading innovation in the healthcare, information technology and financial services industries. Leading the company’s global Innovation & Strategy organization, he’s responsible for creating a pipeline of innovative business propositions that address emerging customer needs and enable a high-growth, profitable health continuum strategy.