Starwars, Wearable Technology, and Virtual Healthcare

woman running

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.


Bang Head Here!

So here I sit on New Year’s Eve contemplating this year of 2014.  I will not be sad to leave it behind and as the eternal optimist I look forward to a better year in 2015.  It’s a surprise that we can get up every morning if we listen to the media. So much hate, so much violence, so much war, so much obesity, so much politics, so much sadness, so much disaster, so much of everything. How do we survive it all?bang head here

I have never been one to make many New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think waiting until New Year’s to decide to be a better person or any other infamous decisions is the right thing to do. If you are giving up your addictions, why wait? My addictions just continue anyway. That is why they are addictions, I have trouble giving them up and I don’t think you can use the word “addiction” and “healthy” in the same sentence.

I read and I hear that the country has turned the corner and that unemployment is decreasing. I also read and hear that inflation is under control? Has anyone bought bread and milk lately? Everything is going up and now gasoline is hitting the bottom.  I don’t think we have to worry about the major oil companies being “too big to go broke” like the banks were in 2008. They should have plenty of financial cushions from the prices we have been paying at the pump for the last few years. But, it the pundits are correct and our friends in the Middle East are doing this to lower the competition, something will surely “pop”.

I am surrounded by news that is not very comforting. I ignore it some days, and other days it affects my life as it does yours.  Tomorrow, I will choose to ignore it and enjoy my New Year’s parade and some football.  And maybe make a New Year’s resolution.

AARP Bulletin Advises Members Against Medical Tests

active seniors

I wonder how many patients Elizabeth Agnvall has sent to an early grave today? The latest AARP Bulletin screams the headline- Doctors say: Skip These Tests! “Doctors warn that some of the common medical tests routinely taken by Americans do more harm than good, waste billions of dollars and could endanger your health or even your life…” Are you kidding me?

On page 12 she lists yearly EKG’s, PSA for prostate cancer, yearly medical exams, annual PAP smears, bone density scans before age 65, colonoscopy after age 75 and etc. She puts forth the premise that prostate cancer is slow growing and you would die from something else first. Where did she get her information? Most people will not read the quantifications she puts in her article and will just read the sensationalist headlines. I can just hear it now “But, AARP says I don’t need to do that test now. It’s more harmful than helpful.” Yes, my mother’s voice still plays in my head. My mother got most of her medical information and diagnosis from Readers Digest. 

The author of the article did leave out the mammogram controversy and for that I am grateful. At least maybe that will not be affected. However, you need a yearly visit to get your order for the test.  Most people don’t need an excuse to NOT see the doctor. My family has lost 3 young individuals to cancer in the last 18 months because they didn’t see the doctor and ignored the symptoms. it is totally irresponsible for AARP to support such a premise. Are we all falling into the theory, becoming more and more prevalent, that if you are over the age of 70 you should be given the boot and make way for those that are younger.  More people than ever are living longer and having good quality of life. Technology is providing more and more answers and the average age of our population is moving forward (or is that upward?). Others believe this is a ploy and supported by the insurance companies to lower their costs and increase the profits. I do know that we will have a reckoning in this country when we believe that we can pay for everything that is wrong with the health of this nation with taxpayers dollars. Certainly there are some unnecessary medical tests being ordered and performed. Some physicians are more guilty than others. I heard one physician describe it as a bowl of Jello. You couldn’t get your arms around it. But, advising patients to stay away from the very tests and visits that could save their life is not the right way.


The Medical Marijuana Debate or Do You Need a Reefer?

The debate rages on in the media about the benefits and complications of legalizing medical marijuana. We have seen the long lines in Colorado already for those buying for recreational use. I have never used medically or recreationally but many of my friends and acquaintances have done so. I recently lost my sister-in-law to stage IV breast cancer and I tried to convince her to use it to increase her appetite and promote a feeling of well being. She refused as she could not change her attitudes either toward it’s use as amarijuana leaf and gavel medicinal herb. When you are dying, no one has the right to tell you what you should do or what you should use to medicate against the end result. One of my BFF’s from high school is now using it during her chemotherapy for bladder cancer. It is illegal in our state and she has a friend that sends it to her from one of those states where it is legal. How could I deprive her of that as she says it is what keeps her going with the nausea. I never asked her if she has a continual craving for Twinkies.

However, it was not ok for my children to self medicate for feelings they could not handle or other excuses they had. My opinion is vested in the 60’s and all that Cheech and Chong imprinted in all of us. Drugs, sex, and rock and roll was not my cup of tea. There is legislation pending in 15 states for 2014 concerning the utilization of medical marijuana. Will we or won’t we be facing this conundrum? If it were a cure or help for Alzheimer’s would we give to our parents who need it? My problem is the past…literally the past. I need to stop the 1960’s tape from playing in my head and move ahead. So, all I can do at this point is sit back and see what happens. But I have my Twinkies ready.

HealthGrades Report to the Nation for 2014

ImageI received my notice that the HealthGrades Report on hospital quality outcomes for 2014 was online.  If you are not well versed in the HealthGrades ratings, it may come as a shock that your hospital is not as good as you think it is.  Their hospital rating reports for specific procedures and diagnoses are compiled primarily from Medicare claim data, and it includes all hospitals that are Medicare participants.

Our nation generally agrees (97%) that having the correct information about our healthcare is paramount in making good healthcare decisions. According to a recent Harris Interactive Research survey, we are more likely to choose our hospital based on convenience/location (58%) and amount of co-pay (45%) than on quality outcome information (10%).

This year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that expenditures for healthcare in the U.S. were $2.6 trillion and 17.9% of the gross domestic product. Of that expenditure, $814 billion went to hospitals and $515.5 billion went to physicians and clinical services.  We have been told that health reform will reduce healthcare spending over the next 10 years and lower our premiums.  If healthcare costs continue to rise why doesn’t the consumer shop for better, more affordable care?

HealthGrades was founded in 1998 and ever since they have been reporting on the quality and safety of our nation’s hospitals. The most recent survey just posted online at their website claims that in the time period 2010-2012 , an additional 234,252 lives could have been saved if all hospitals had operated at their highest rating level of 5 stars. HealthGrades rates the performance of hospitals on multiple procedures and diseases within the same institution.

The first thing I did was to go to their website and look up the hospital in my home town. What I found was frightening. My chances of survival in my hometown hospital with a heart attack were only a 2.  However, if I were a patient in the same hospital with pneumonia, my chances of a good outcome were a 4.  My hometown hospital only rated a 3 on the overall scale.  Not a very comforting thought. HealthGrades states that patients treated at a hospital receiving 5-stars in a particular procedure or condition have a lower risk of experiencing complications during a hospital stay than if they were treated at a hospital receiving a 1-star in that procedure or condition.  There also is a lower risk of dying during a hospital stay in a 5-star hospital than in a 1-star hospital. They also cite the national ratings average for procedures and conditions for comparison.

You should visit the website and find your healthcare facility. It is imperative that we, as consumers, must take charge of our own health,  and make informed choices on where and from whom we purchase our care.