• Ariel Chen

The Tech- and Consumer-Driven Shake-Ups Creates Ripple Effects Throughout the Healthcare System

Millions of Americans suddenly asked themselves "Can I solve this care need without showing up in person?" Because of this new normal/mindset, physicians are pushed to accept new healthcare technology features every day even they are not ready yet.

Tech companies are starting to chart their path to remote monitoring by transforming consumer gadgets to medical devices, with an eye on clinical evidence. For established companies like Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet, the exploding popularity of health tracking is a boon to their push to make sizable inroads in health. Those companies are courting the new patient-consumer with a device-first strategy, transforming their bestselling wearables into health tools with medical capabilities.

Meanwhile, health tech companies like Livongo are taking a platform-driven approach, catering to patients with remote monitoring programs that connect them with health professionals and provide useful data. For example, a person with diabetes snaps a photo of their dinner and uses an app to predict how it will impact their blood sugar. A New Yorker with hypertension texts with an Alabama health coach about data from their smart blood pressure cuffs.

Because of the tech- and consumer-driven market, clinicians are increasingly being asked to interpret the results from wearable devices provided by patients who are hesitant to come in for a visit. This is clear evidence that consumers and consumer electronics make decisions on health more than a physician decides which device to use. Clinics are being pushed by consumers themselves that create the competition and the drive to create the best user experience.

Nevertheless, having a watch that tells you things doesn’t mean you have remote monitoring access. The platforms and integration need to start to make it happen. For tech giants, such as Apple, Fitbit, Xiaomi, and Amazon, intend for their tools to remain relevant to users’ health for the long term, they will need to start integrating them with platforms that can help guide their care. For health device startups, they will need to acquire patients by way of partnerships with payers, such as employers and insurance companies. For industry stalwarts, such as Philips and GE, they will need to consider fundamental changes to their business structure aimed at better serving the patient-consumer instead of the healthcare institution, such as hospitals or clinics. Every organization in the healthcare device industry will need to figure out how to make their devices an established, long-term component of the existing healthcare system, rather than simply a temporary or one-off solution. This is a shift we have seen and will continue to expand to other areas of healthcare.