Sunday 22 April 2018

Health Digital Check-Up: Physical Meets Digital

As adoption of digital in the health space continues to grow, it’s important that we look to the next frontier and focus on opportunities to interconnect our physical and digital worlds. This year at SXSW, Google’s Marissa Meyer took the stage to talk about how Google will connect the digital and physical worlds through mobile. During her talk, Meyer astutely described the mobile phone as, “a cursor to connect the digital and physical” and an opportunity to add context and intelligence to that intersection.

Improvements at the intersection of physical and digital are starting to reap great rewards in areas such as technology and retail by introducing new data (e.g. location) into the mix of information used by marketers.

What does this mean for health?

Pharmaceutical companies have already looked to this intersection for opportunities in patient compliance, but openings are much more vast. Here are some recent advances for inspiration.

Personal Health Fitness Trackers

Always-on personal health devices like Fitbit, DirectLife and Bodymedia FIT produce a digital record of daily activities. Devices like these measure a variety of indices that track caloric burn and sleep quality. Combined with user entered data, like calorie consumption, these tools help quantify daily activity and provide feedback to help manage personal health. Tools like these have great potential for health care professionals (HCPs), providing a window into patient activity outside of the doctor’s office and have the potential to transform the HCP-patient relationship from a periodic one to continual.

Assisted Living Smart Homes

Finding ways to keep people living in the community for longer is an important part of addressing the challenges associated with an aging population. Non-invasive systems like Livind, designed to notify caregivers in case of falls, help to free up system capacity and enable independent at home living. Today these systems are being developed to assist people with moderate to severe dementia and for older adults – mostly to prevent falls, but advancements being made at academic teaching hospitals like Toronto Rehab may enable them to be used for a wider variety of purposes in years to come.

Gaming for Health

In last month’s Health Digital Check-up SXSW recap, gaming and the game layer, as presented by SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch, were one of the key emerging trends pertinent to the health industry and beyond. We’re only beginning to see the potential of gamifying health. In fact, video game systems like Nintendo Wii are already being used for stroke rehab and Microsoft Kinect (client) has the potential to be used for home rehabilitation via facial recognition validating patient identity, and the cameras grading aspects like range-of-motion of a body part. Projects like Switch2Health and The Broccoli Project are finding ways to reward people for adopting positive health behaviours by capitalizing on the power of game dynamics. Projects like these not only incent positive changes in behaviour but can capture valuable data about what persuades people to take action to help optimize future health initiatives.


Image credit: bhautikjoshi

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