Will 2015 be the year your watch teaches you about your health?

Looking ahead to a bright new year and all the innovations 2015 holds for clinician and patient health IT consumers alike.
By Nick van Terheyden, MD
01:55 PM
Share

There is no known medical condition that enables an individual to predict the future.  While such an ability would be extremely useful for myriad reasons, we have, instead, learned to hone and leverage our analytic skills to deduce what might occur, relying on the data we cull and parse to help forecast the future.  So, when it comes to predicting the year ahead, we should consider the one we just had.

Regardless of which side of the exam table you sit, we’re all healthcare consumers

Consumer technology is often a good indicator of what type of capabilities and functionalities might be in store for health IT.  This past year, we saw major players in the tech space announce their forays into healthcare.  While this will not be without its challenges, it does not diminish the underlying fact that there is a need and want for better technology in healthcare — regardless of whether you are a patient looking to effectively manage your weight or a physician struggling to juggle patient care and administrative duties.

In the last year, we saw a wave of next-generation wearable devices flood the market, and as a result, we, as patient consumers, now have streamlined access to information such as our daily step count and average heart-rate on our watches.  We know that ease-of-use, understandability, and some level of gameification (“Congratulations! You’ve reached your target heart rate today!”) are vital to maintaining engagement.

I believe this is the beginning of something much larger, a groundswell movement that will result in patients wanting more information about their health data, and, more importantly, craving a better understanding of what all these numbers actually mean and how to positively impact them. Achieving this level of engagement demands a simpler intelligent interface that doesn’t require a learning curve, but is one that consumers can just use. Clever user interface designs can only go so far, particularly given the small visual real estate available on wearable devices, and the addition of capabilities such as intelligent voice assistants will be an integral part of this explosion of personal health management.