Wearable Device Implications for Rural Healthcare

Today, the most popular type of wearable health device is the fitness tracker, embraced by fitness enthusiasts, data geeks…primarily, the intersection of the two. However, wearable technologies have the potential to measure much more than steps, distance and calories; extending to glucose, blood pressure and brainwaves. The implications for healthcare are significant.

wearables

Physicians are already reporting that wearable technologies are helpful for patients managing obesity (the obvious), as well as diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. Wearables can also improve on-the-job safety by monitoring alertness, location and time/performance. In areas where access to physicians is limited, wearables are particularly important; helping the consumer or patient to take charge of her own health.

In this presentation, Wearable Medical Devices, implications for rural India, where there are fewer than 1 doctor for every 10,000 people, are explored. While wearables could help reduce dependency on these very few doctors, barriers to penetration include: price, positioning as a fitness vs. general health/wellness device and lack of marketing in local languages. By addressing these barriers, wearable technologies will gain access to huge untapped populations. One can even imagine a future where health insurance companies offer discounts to people who wear the devices, just as car insurance companies have done for drivers who have installed wireless devices to track when and where their car is on the road.

Why It’s Hot: Real-time feedback on health will greatly change consumers’ behavior; how they engage with health/condition-related content on the wearable, the web, et al., as well as how they engage with their caregivers/families and healthcare providers. In-person doctor visits may become less frequent, as wearables make patients more self-sufficient, as well as facilitate remote care/treatment of the patient by the doctor. Pharma marketing channels, such as in-office magazine wraps and television commercials, EMRs, wearable in-app ads, et al., increase/decrease in penetration and effectiveness.

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