There’s no denying that wearable technology has become a hot arena for innovators. All types of applications are developing with a diversity that is astounding. The range of people utilizing the technology may vary from marathon runners to sailors to rhino conservationists or firefighters, exploring new ways of dynamically accessing data in real-time through Google Glass, smartphones, smart watches, and other devices. As part of this movement, a massive revolution in healthcare-focused wearable tech is emerging. The prediction is as much as a $5 billion market by 2018. Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Phillips, Nike, and dozens of other companies known for innovation leadership have all invested in wearable devices and mobile apps. These wearable devices are already changing how consumers, employers, insurers, and healthcare providers are interacting, receiving and delivering medical services. As a result, digital marketers have a whole new playground for innovation themselves. The proliferation of smart healthcare devices provides new marketing real estate and is increasingly engaging consumers through better targeting with new forms of interaction. This new brand of storytelling with the consumer is laying the groundwork for healthcare brands to deepen their relationships with consumers.
Before digging into the digital marketing opportunities, it’s important to understand the underlying infrastructure. The possibilities are endless — employers can reward employees through Fitbit-based corporate wellness programs, caretakers at assisted living facilities can set alarms for patient activity that fall outside normal conditions, and rehabilitating athletes can measure the progress of their motions through a wireless sensor foot insole. Amidst all these ideas, data remains the constant fundamental output. Here are some of the amazing new things doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other direct providers are doing with the data in order to improve and enhance the way they deliver healthcare:
Enabling proactive preventative measures
Health and fitness wearable tech has given individuals unparalleled access to data about their own bodies, enabling them to be more involved in their overall health and wellness. Moreover, with data in the cloud, doctors can remotely access patient data from the connected devices (with permission), allowing them to make decisions on whether a visit or specific treatment is necessary. In many cases, in less privileged areas around the world, doctors are able to ‘pay visits’ through connected wearable devices and diagnose patients on the spot with data they receive over the web.
Assisting with patient care in real-time
When most people think about hospital visits, usually visions of long lines, long waits in reception rooms and time-intensive experiences come to mind. The instantaneous nature of data made available by wearable devices from multiple sources (eyewear, heart rate monitors, etc.), enable nurses and administrators to make facilities operate more efficiently. Physicians also have the ability to make faster and smarter time-sensitive decisions. In a recent article on Beth Israel’s ground-breaking partnership with startup Wearable Intelligence, one of the hospital’s Emergency Department physicians, Dr. Steve Horng, reports, “Over the past 3 months, I have been using Google Glass clinically while working in the Emergency Department. This user experience has been fundamentally different than our previous experiences with Tablets and Smartphones. As a wearable device that is always on and ready, it has remarkably streamlined clinical workflows that involve information gathering.” The YouTube video for the use of Google Glass in the Emergency Department is eye-opening and readily shows a valid clinical application. The emergency physician videos the patient with obvious symptoms from the camera embedded in the Google Glass and transmits the image via Wi-Fi to a waiting cardiovascular physician at a computer in another location. The cardiovascular physician can assess the patient and prescribe the proper treatment plan. Treatment time is greatly reduced which improves patient care and outcome significantly. In the same manner, the Paramedic in the ambulance transporting the patient can send preliminary information and vital signs to the waiting emergency physician allowing the emergency team to prepare for the patient’s arrival.
Monitoring patient care
The staggering power and potential of wearable tech in monitoring patients is demonstrated by Freescale’s KL2 chip . The KL2 chip is ant size but has processing powers and wireless transmission. It is small enough to be packaged inside a capsule for swallowing. Patients with diseased organs can swallow this ant-sized chip with medication. Once inside, the chip can send back biometric readings via Wi-Fi to help physicians monitor or diagnose disease, either for the patient via a mobile app, or the healthcare professional treating the patient.
Healthcare digital marketers are undoubtedly enthusiastic about the abundance of creative programs they can produce with wearable tech. Particularly exciting is the access programs and brands have to consumer states of body and mind. In traditional market channels, such as TV, brands can’t necessarily gauge what their viewers feel on the couch. Apple or Google doesn’t know what we are thinking. Wearable tech, on the other hand, allows brands to hook into an individual’s state of mind as he engages with their messages. We potentially can even help optimize for the right message and creative design. For example, a stress-reducing pharmaceutical brand might target people who are currently experiencing high-levels of stress, as indicated in real-time through their wearable devices. A sleep aide medication manufacturer might send a message to the person who is having trouble sleeping. The power of plugging into the consumer mindset cannot be underestimated. Not only does it eliminate assumptions about audiences, but also provides deeply powerful context to drive relevant messages directly to the consumer.
With 1.8 billion smartphones globally and the acceleration of other connected devices, people are generating more data than ever before. Major challenges lie ahead with implementing an integrated infrastructure, harnessing massive amounts of data while respecting consumer privacy and security. However, the benefits far outweigh the challenges for tech innovators and healthcare recipients.
It’s coming sooner than you think. In my small office, I have 10 percent of the employees in wearable already.