Depending on what term you Google, there are dozens of health-related apps listed as the best ones for patients and consumers. Things like Tummy Trends, iCookbook, MyFitness Pal, and so on. The list of wearable devices is equally lengthy. Millions of dollars are being spent to develop these apps and devices. And billions have been spent and will be spent by individuals — consumers — who are interested in either getting better or in staying healthy.
So I thought maybe the time had come for someone to add a voice of reason to this discussion. I kept waiting for someone to do that, and when nobody did, I thought perhaps I should take a stab at it.
There are enough apps and devices available to record data about pretty much every body part and every conceivable health condition. I can purchase an iWatch, a Samsung smart belt, an Under Armour shirt, and smart shoes. Sensors can be strapped to every part of me.
So that must be a good thing. Right? Not so fast, Charlie.
If you bought and wore every device, and used every app, would you be healthier? Or, would you just have a lot of data?
- Each of the apps and wearables are standalone recording devices. Data from one app or device knows nothing about the data from any of the other apps or devices.
- Data from some apps lack information. Eating 2,000 calories of Twizzlers records the same number of calories as eating 2,000 calories of salmon.
- The fitness trackers look nice, but they are not designed to tell you, “Stop running NOW! Dial 911.”
- The user of the apps and the wearer of the devices must be qualified to play doctor. They must be able to understand the data and draw correct conclusions from each app. And they must be able to correlate their data from one app or device and interpret its meaning in light of the data collected from all of the other apps and devices.
Reams of data, very little information. Nothing seems to be able to answer the question, “So what?” In my small mind, I do not see how an individual is supposed to manage their health using any of these data because they are missing one important piece of information — what is all of this data telling me I should do?
The missing app, the missing device, and the piece of the puzzle that is not available to a consumer is the one that collects all of my data, analyzes all of it, and tells me what I should do tomorrow. Everyone’s current wellness plan for tomorrow and the next day is to collect more data.
One solution would be to allow consumers to download a physician or strap one to their wrist. And why is that important? Because without being able to do that, the consumer is forced to play doctor. They guess, and guessing is not the healthiest choice for maintaining your health.
But what if there were a way for consumers to collect data and allow the doctors to play doctor? There is. It’s just not being done.
Let’s come up with a solution by simply looking at one person’s app and device data; yours or mine. Suppose the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) — my provider, or Anthem, or CVS decided, “We want to know as much as we can as often as we can about our patients’ and customers’ health. And — this part is a big deal if you happen to be a healthcare executive — what if we wanted to know the same information about people who are not our patients and customers?
(Sidebar. This is a big deal because non-patients and non-customers are the exact group of people your marketing departments are targeting. Suppose that every day for the last two years, Sally, who is not a patient at HUP, has been allowing HUP to collect, manage, and assess all of her health app and wearable data. If Sally gets sick, she is going to go to HUP because they know everything about her. Perhaps HUP, having analyzed Sally’s health data, recognizes Sally, notifies Sally, and treats her? Sally went from being a consumer with no provider to being HUP’s patient. And Sally will be no more interested in changing providers than she would be to change the bank with which she has stored all of her financial information. Payers — Anthem and retail pharmacies like CVS — can develop the same consumer friendly way to proactively manage the health and wellness of their stakeholders.)
This health data aggregator, this Super-App has to be interactive. It can reside on a PC. It ought to reside on a mobile device. And ideally, it should reside in the cloud. And instead of having clinicians reviewing all of this data, it should be cognitive.