IBM has just released a groundbreaking executive report that discusses the future of connected health devices, by analyzing who will most benefit from them, what kind of people will be the early adopters, and how to go about developing new products. In a nutshell, the IBM study predicts that the next generation of healthcare devices “will increasingly come to the aid of the world’s one billion adults who are overweight, the 20 percent of smokers globally who are trying to quit, those who are suffering from hypertension and 14 percent of the elderly worldwide who live alone.” The study forecasts that this consumer segment is ready for connected health devices and that users are willing to pay up to $100 for them, a critical price point in almost 75% of people surveyed.
Based on the study’s results, IBM predicts that we will go social when it comes to our health. For example, 86 percent of device users are demanding real-time information and feedback. Also, social networks and social support have real health benefits, as they promote more effective behavior change, such as better success at dieting or quitting smoking and becoming less sedentary. Lastly, future health devices will have a real social value, as they will allow patients to stay connected with their network of supporters and family members.
We took the opportunity to ask a few follow up questions to Heather Fraser, Global Distribution and Life Sciences lead at IBM Global Business Services, and one of the authors of the report.
Medgadget: Your study identified $100 as a key price point for market adoption of connected devices. What technological, economic, or other factors do you see hampering devices from reaching that goal?
Heather Fraser: Our survey respondents said they will be more open to paying for devices that met their needs in the future. More than one-third of the respondents are willing to pay for devices in 2 years, although currently less than one-tenth are paying some out of pocket cost for their devices today. Of those respondents planning to buy a new device in the next two years, 79% of them expect to incur some out-of-pocket expense not to exceed $100.
This will require
- manufacturers to come up with affordable devices
- implementing incentives such as decreased insurance premiums to capture more consumers
- looking at costs shared between consumer and payer – this could be outcomes based in nature
Medgadget. Does the multitude of free medical smartphone applications pose a challenge to companies providing their own specialty software to interface with their devices, or do you see companies opening up their device data for easy access to 3rd party developers?
Heather Fraser: On the contrary, we see the rapid adoption of mobile devices and adoption of apps ( 10% of apps downloaded from Apple iTunes Store are related to healthcare, medical or lifestyle) as providing a new level of comfort for consumers with communications and entertainment technologies , influencing how they want to manage their health.
Medgadget. What medical conditions do you envision will drive the greatest growth in this market?
Heather Fraser: Companies pursuing business opportunities in health device market and particularly amongst the information seekers need to decide which conditions offer the best opportunity and then understand the information needs of that group. They need to check that data can be collected; will be accepted readily and will be used to support any treatment. This could be done along with healthcare professionals and patient advocacy groups for example.
Examples of medical conditions which fit in the information seeker category and offer significant populations are:
ADHD: 5.3million children aged 3-17, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in the US
Obesity: $63Billion spent globally on the top ten selling diet drugs
High blood pressure : 600M People globally suffer from Hypertension
Medgadget. Is this “gamification” of health and fitness just a fad, or will games play a greater role in the future of medicine?
Heather Fraser: The later. To reach the ‘Information seekers’ consumers, device makers need take a different approach to solution design to motivate the user to continue to use their device. They need to focus on making the actual device easy to use for the target audience and also helping the consumers manage their health conditions by setting up rules. For some consumers offering the use of games to ‘reward’ for persistence and compliance is a great motivator (e.g. Bayer Didget offering ‘gaming ‘ rewards for kids that regularly monitor their diabetes and stay within defined limits or alerts to contact your health professional if a reading exceeds a given level on more than 2 occasions in a row )
Medgadget: Do you see Google’s announcement that they are shutting down Google Health as a signal of greater than expected challenges existing in the industry?
Heather Fraser: According to our study 77% of the respondents said that keeping their data private and secure was critical, confirming that privacy and security of personal health data is a minimum requirement for connected health devices.
Full IBM report: The future of connected health devices: Liberating the Information Seeker.