Today, the phrase ‘consumer health technology’ typically brings to mind the current generation of physical activity tracking devices. Initially these were little more than step-counters, but have quickly evolved (subject to the constraints of battery life) to track multiple forms of exercise, heart rate, skin temperature, etc.
Whilst of significant personal interest, most personal health data gathered today through consumer health technology has limited clinical relevance, leading to scepticism amongst many health providers regarding the value of patient-acquired health data. Philips’ Future Health Index 2016 research showed that one of the top perceived barriers to connected technology adoption from healthcare professionals was trust in accuracy of data collected by the devices.
However, to look at the current state of this technology without regard for its rapid rate of progress is to misunderstand where we are going. We undoubtedly stand on the edge of a ‘Cambrian explosion’ in consumer health technology which will revolutionize medical diagnosis and health monitoring, underpinning the development of radically new models of care with the patient at the center.
Within 20 years, healthcare consumers are likely to wear more diagnostic power on their wrists and in their clothes than we have available to us through entire health systems today. This will support proactive diagnosis, early intervention and continuous monitoring that drives previously unachievable quality, safety and efficiency in healthcare.
Indeed, consumer health technology is already much more than physical activity trackers. Although slowed by the need for vital regulation through bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we are seeing the emergence of sophisticated sleep monitors, wearable Electrocardiograph (ECG) devices, Wifi-enabled blood pressure monitors, glucometers and scales, Artificial Intelligence (AI) based diagnostic tools delivered via smartphone, and much more. Traditionally only for use by health professionals, these devices are rapidly being consumerized, with a strong focus on user experience and affordability.