With my email inbox overflowing from CES meeting invitations, one trend bubbling up is the latest wave of fitness technology that will be on display in Las Vegas a month from now. Real time communication (RTC) will have to be partners with fitness tech 2.0 gadgets in order to get the best and most informed use out of the new hardware, as well as to monitor health and prevent misuse.
Already, we've got numerous (forgive me) health-vertical monitoring apps starting to emerge in the marketplace. You can find apps built around GENBAND's Kandy platform to assist in monitoring diabetes and the MindMe app providing mental health support for depression and those vulnerable to suicidal thoughts.
RTC is beautiful for providing voice and video between people and skilled healthcare professionals. The growing use of personal videoconferencing between healthcare providers and patients is helping to reduce cost for medical plans and provide more time for both doctors and patients to get the "right" amount of care delivered, rather than asking a sick person to come into the ER or doctor's office and bringing his potentially communicable illness in with him.
But while a skilled practitioner can learn a lot from video observation and careful questioning, doctors and their support personnel, including nurse practitioners and first responders need more data to fully understand the status of the patient. It might be something simple, such as temperature and heart rate, or something requiring more equipment, like a blood pressure reading or a finger stick for a glucose measurement.
Enter remote monitoring. Berg Insight says 4.9 million patients worldwide in 2015 are being remotely monitored, with connected medical devices such as pacemakers and sleep therapy devices. And these numbers are just for devices are officially blessed by the medical establishment, not off-the-shelf consumer devices for fitness and health, such as Fitbit and the like.
New consumer devices coming to the fore include more detailed and elaborate heart rate monitoring closer to a formal EEG, sensors to provide insight into muscle tone and body mass index, and a sensor to tell if you are burning fat or energy by detecting the amount of acetone in your breath.
All of the new off-the-shelf devices provide more information any person, but properly interpreting and using the raw data thrown is something where most are going to need an educated health professional to provide context and deeper insight. An irregular heartbeat might be indicative of a serious problem or a combination of too much stress and caffeine, calling for rest rather than hospitalization. Acetone can be an indicator of weight loss, but it is also an indicator of diabetes -- suddenly, a weight-loss sensor becomes an indicator for the disease and a means to determine if is being controlled in addition to finger sticks.
A medical professional, provided with data in context generated by the new and future crop of wearable technology, will be able to come to a better diagnosis and be more engaged with the patient when using videoconferencing in lieu -- or preferably to -- a formal office visit. Patients win since they have immediate access to better data to manage their own routines and care and can reach out to a medical professional. And everyone should win because more effective care and corrective action is delivered sooner through deeper engagement, lowering the overall cost of health care.