Apple’s plans to redefine mobile health

The lure of wearable technology and its application to health is tremendous. So tremendous that even the richest company on the planet, Apple, can’t resist it.

The company’s interest in healthcare and fitness tracking will be displayed in an iOS 8 application codenamed Healthbook capable of tracking several different health and fitness data points. Which data will the app monitor it is not clear but over the last weeks, speculation and mockups have intensified. Some say it will track bloodwork, heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, physical activity, nutrition, blood sugar, sleep, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and weight.

Healthbook will read health and fitness data from wearable devices such as the iWatch Apple is also developing. The smart watch will serve as an accessory to the iPhone and other iOS devices, giving users easy at-a-glance access to common functions without having to take their larger devices out of their pockets or bags. It will also incorporate a number of sensors and biometrics. Rumors have suggested that the iWatch could also serve as a control device for home automation and there are reports suggesting it could come in multiple sizes for a customized fit.

Getting the “iWatch” and this app into the hands of consumers may take some time. Apple is not only on its own timetable for this product, but it will likely need to follow the schedules of governments. The company has begun meeting with the FDA regarding medical applications and last February was seeking people to test health related software.

Seven years out from the revolutionary iPhone’s introduction, Apple’s entry into the health and sensor world is not a matter of if it will happen, but it comes down to how long it will take for the company to implement its vision of reinventing mobile healthcare.

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Recreation of a screenshots of the Healthbook. Credit: 9to5mac.com

 

Now is health entrepreneurs’ time.

Are we living in the best time in history to be a healthcare entrepreneur? An increasing number of experts say yes. The last one, Zen Chu, the founder of HackingMedicine and the current Entrepreneur in Residence at MIT. In an article published last week he explains what makes current times the most exciting ones to start a new business in healthcare:

  • Broad realization that technology can be used to scale medicine at a broader systems + population health
  • Changing healthcare reforms in the US is aligning incentives for better systemic healthcare
  • Large entrenched healthcare institutions are having a tough time adapting versus more agile startups
  • Start up costs have plummeted, so it’s more capital efficient than ever
  • The ubiquity of mobile computing and low cost diagnostics and sensors make health data liquidity and tracking easier than ever
  • Rising middle classes and health infrastructure in emerging economies are expanding access and demand globally

Chu’s article is one of the gems we have found on the Internet this week but not the only one. The slideshare below includes the top 10 technology and business model changes poised to disrupt the medical technology industry. It is worth having a look to it.

Scientific Thinking in Business

Over the past few centuries scientific thinking has largely increased our understanding of the world. This learning would have not been so effective without the scientific method, the recipe science uses to study reality in a systematic, replicable way. It starts with some general question based on your experience; then it forms a hypothesis that would resolve the puzzle and that also generates a testable prediction; later it gathers data to test the prediction; and finally, evaluates the hypothesis relative to other competing ones.

Despite its proven success, scientific thinking has rarely entered the worlds of politics, business, policy and marketing. Why? Science is used to deal with huge amounts of data, a deluge of information that now is also entering social sciences and changing forever how businesses decide what to do. How could the scientific method improve business decision making?

We have found at MIT Technology Review magazine a very interesting special report on scientific thinking applied to business that explores the topic. It is worth reading.

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Credit: University of Berkeley

 

A tweet a day keeps the doctor away

We are experiencing one of the biggest shifts in how we communicate in human history. Thanks to social media and mobile technologies we can now multitask, search news, shrinks distances between our relationships and browse several activity feeds at once. But how is it impactful for the health care industry? In a generation that is more likely to go online to answer general health questions then ask a doctor, what role does social media play in this process?

Recent studies have shown that more than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health. People between 18 to 24 year olds are more than 2x as likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions. Thus, it is not surprising 31% of health care organizations have specific social media guidelines in writing.

Social health revolution is on. If you want to delve deeper in this phenomenon, in this article you can find some meaningful statistics and figures that clearly illustrate its’ magnitude.

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Health Tech Trends to Watch in 2014

2013 was a big year for consumer health technology. According to mobile tech consultancy Research2Guidance, there are now close to 100,000 mobile health apps in 62 app stores, with the top 10 apps generating over 4 million free downloads every day.

This year also saw increased adoption of wearable tech, a market that is expected to grow to 100 million units by the end of 2014.

So if 2013 was the year of wearables and health apps, what’s on tap for next year?

Mashable has made a selection of exciting health tech trends to keep an eye on for the new year.

Data in the Doctor’s Office

According to Pew Research, 21% of Americans already use some form of technology to track their health data, and as the market for wearable devices and health apps grows, so too will the mountain of data about our behaviors and vitals. Next year, we may see more of this data incorporated into our day-to-day medical care as physiological data obtained by quantified-self devices combine with medical knowledge.

Smart Clothes

A new wave of wearable smart garments will be hitting the stores next year. In fact, market research company Markets and Markets expects sales of smart clothes and fabrics to reach $2.03 billion by 2018.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 10.53.26

Foodeducate

Augmented nutrition

If you want to fit into the latest smart fashion, you might need to keep better tabs on what you’re eating. We’ve already seen popular apps such as Fooducate make things easy by letting you scan the barcodes on packaged foods to gather nutrition data. In 2014, we’ll see new technologies that take even more of the guesswork out of counting calories and tracking for pesticides, GMOs, allergens etc.

Virtual House Calls

Several online services and a slew of new devices that enable virtual care will bring the doctor to you.

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Google Helpouts Health

Health Rewards

If looking and feeling good isn’t enough of a payoff, how about getting paid for getting healthy?

Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health recently reported that more than two-thirds of companies offer financial incentives to encourage participation in company wellness activities — up from just over half in 2010. In 2014, we’ll see more use of technology to track and reward people for these types of healthy habits.

You can get a more detailed picture of each trend here.

Would you add other trend? Share it with us in the comments!

The robot will see you now

Technology is about to revolutionize healthcare. How far will automation go? Will doctors still be necessary? This is what Jonathan Cohn analyzes in a feature at the March issue of The Atlantic.

Medical records are at the core of the health system. Over the last two decades -Cohn writes- there has been a long-lasting effort to store patients’ health data electronically. Although currently there are more than 400 vendors offering these records, the process continues to be frustratingly slow. So slow that, often, doctors still have to print, fax, and scan medical records when transferring them to another institution. To establish a common language so that all already existing electronic medical records can “speak” to one another remains a pending task.

If something as simple as to put electronically health information it is being so time-consuming, thinking of an intelligent robot diagnosing a disease may seem and idea exclusive of science-fiction movies. But the article states how a supercomputer called Watson could help to make it a reality sooner than later.

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IBM’s Watson computer became famous in 2011, when it beat two previous human champions on Jeopardy American TV quiz show. But IBM didn’t build Watson to win game shows. The company is developing the machine to help professionals with complex decision-making and reduce errors, for example, to point out clinical nuances that health professionals might miss on their own and get more accurate diagnosis and treatments for illnesses. This is not small thing. As The Atlantic’s piece exposes, “nearly 80% of all information in medicine consists of unstructured physician notes dictated into medical records, long-winded sentences published in academic journals, and raw numbers stored online by public-health departments”.

IBM’s Watson can digest up to 60 million pages of text per second and make suggestions much more quickly than any human. The machine is now learning to make diagnoses and treatment recommendations reading case histories at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Watson became a better at Jeopardy over time, the longer it played. Once completed its current task, Watson could continue learning to figure out medical problems sitting in on patient examinations and silently listening.

Marty Kohn, an emergency-room physician and IBM’s team leader training Watson, said last January at a meeting at the University of Utah that Watson could be “a game-changer” in fields such as oncology and primary care, where errors can be common. Kohn explained that about one-third of these errors appear to be products of misdiagnosis, one cause of which is humans’ tendency to rely too heavily on a single piece of information. “This happens all the time in doctors’ offices, clinics, and emergency rooms. A physician hears about two or three symptoms, seizes on a diagnosis consistent with those, and subconsciously discounts evidence that points to something else,” Cohn writes in The Atlantic.

If, one day, diagnostic aids such as Watson may “become as ubiquitous in doctors’ offices as the stethoscope,” only time will tell. Meantime, if you want to learn how IBM engineers and Memorial Sloan Kettering physicians are training Watson to personalize cancer care don’t miss this article and this video.

Lessons Learned:

  • New technology has the potential to have a big impact on the health care industry solving some of its greatest problems.
  • The quest to improve patient care, maximize medical efficiency and cut costs in health care industry has gained a powerful new ally: Watson, IBM’s revolutionary data-mining supercomputer.
  • Watson is being trained to improve cancer treatment. Physicians will take advantage of its information digestion capability and technology to automate claims processes to reduce misdiagnosis and select the most appropriate treatments for each patient.