One would expect that at last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we would have been treated to cutting-edge advancements that demonstrate how companies can harness their technology to meet the needs of an evolving patient-centric healthcare industry -- and we did.
What caught my eye was the launch of a partnership between Ford Motor Co.; Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT); Healthrageous, a company that delivers digital, self-management prevention, and chronic condition health solutions via the Web and a mobile app; and BlueMetal Architects, an interactive design and technology architecture firm.
The alliance will develop technology that drivers will use to monitor their health and wellness while traveling in their cars. How does this work, you ask?
In a nutshell, drivers will enter information by speaking into a voice recognition system that captures health information such as the number of glasses of water consumed during the day, or what pills they had taken. The information is uploaded to Microsoft's HealthVault, which uses cloud computing to store and manage an individual's personal health record (PHR). The data is processed, along with other health data stored in the PHR, and used to create graphical reports that the driver can access via a computer, tablet, or smartphone after he or she has left the vehicle.
When I read this, my first thought was that with so many accidents caused by the distraction of text messaging while driving, do we really want our drivers to monitor their health related data in a car? In spite of the obvious drawbacks, those involved in this alliance think that with so many Americans spending so much time in their cars, this is a wonderful place for people to engage technology that will enable them track to their health and wellness.
"People are spending more time in their cars, and with the tremendous growth in mobile healthcare solutions, Ford is dedicated to understanding the value of being able to connect to health and wellness-related services while driving," Gary Strumolo, manager of Infotainment, Interiors, Health, and Wellness at Ford Research and Innovation, said in a statement. "Our connectivity platform -- Ford SYNC -- provides easy, voice-controlled access to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and therefore it makes sense to research areas that are important to our customers."
The idea that individuals should take greater responsibility for monitoring their health is a goal the healthcare industry is promoting. UnitedHealth Group, which occupied a 3,500-square-foot booth at CES, announced ahead of the conference that it has partnered with three mobile health companies whose products and services will be offered to one of its divisions that provides healthcare coverage and benefit services to individuals across the country.
Among UnitedHealth Group's new partners is CareSpeak Communications, which has developed a medication and disease management application that helps patients manage their health using two-way text messaging via their mobile phones. The CareSpeak system allows patients to send text messages about their medication intakes and biometric data (blood glucose levels, blood pressure, weight, etc.) to clinicians. Patients will also receive educational and motivational messages, as well as incentives and rewards for meeting their health goals.
FitNow Inc., and its application Lose It!, will help UnitedHealthcare members manage their weight and improve their health by tracking their progress using a mobile app and Website. The mobile app is available for iPhones and Android devices.
The third company is Fitbit Inc., which has developed a product that includes an accelerometer to count how many steps a user takes, and an altimeter to track stairs climbed. The wireless tracking device also calculates how many calories are burned. This information is uploaded to Fitbit.com where consumers can analyze their physical activity.
"The incredible growth and interest in healthcare at the CES show is yet another example of the major transformative activity surrounding the expanding need and desire for patients to take greater responsibility for their own healthcare," said Zachary Bujnoch, an analyst covering Telehealth at Frost & Sullivan .
A new era in healthcare technology has arrived where consumers will turn to their smartphones, tablets, and computers to enter and access their health information. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact this new way of monitoring a person's health will have on the healthcare industry, and whether this new model of care will thrive.