While the industry will be talking, writing and forecasting the impact of Apple’s upcoming iWatch release on the healthcare industry, the reality is the iWatch won’t move the needle on lowering healthcare costs in the U.S. Why not? There are several challenges to address in leveraging the growth in mobile health technology and applications to deliver on the promise of a real change in health outcomes and costs in the U.S.
One is the progression that emerging technologies go through before the move from hype to reality in the promised impact – the progression from technology to applications to solutions.
We have a lot of technology in the market, with more being developed, creating and collecting many new digital data points on a wide range of individuals. We have applications that use the data to deliver information that tracks, and, in some cases, analyzes what that data can tell us about our condition. What we lack, however, are solutions that integrate that data and provide actionable insights to healthcare providers and payers, as well as individuals.
Apple’s HealthKit and Samsung’s S Health platforms are part of the answer, but we are in the early stages of conceptualizing, building and implementing those solutions. More data points from an iWatch don’t solve that problem.
A second issue is who will wear an iWatch. What we see from existing wearable users indicate the user base will likely skew heavily towards those who are already aware of and tracking their fitness and health, and who are relatively healthy. These people cost the healthcare system relatively less than average. While the iWatch will likely expand the user base of wearables beyond the current quantified self-movement to some of the “worried well,” it won’t likely penetrate many of those who are the highest risk and highest cost as long as it remains a consumer device.
The real impact on healthcare and healthcare costs in the U.S. will come in the near term through disease management solutions that expand the reach of information flow to clinicians from the high risk and at-risk individuals who suffer from chronic disease conditions that drive 75 percent of healthcare costs in the U.S. Another data collecting device is not the panacea to make this reality. What Apple is doing with HealthKit (and Epic and Mayo) is the more important event to track and analyze.