Consumers are running the Digital Health Revolution

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Fitbit, a Medelinked partner and leader in the connected health and fitness market, this week announced it had acquired wearable payment assets of Coin, a Silicon Valley consumer electronics and financial technology company. The deal includes key personnel and intellectual property specific to Coin’s wearables payment platform and accelerates Fitbit’s ability to develop an active NFC payment solution.

This could be embedded into future Fitbit devices, ensuring consumers are given another reason to integrate a fitness tracker into their everyday lifestyle in a fitness wearables market that will continue to expand at breakneck speed past the end of the decade, according to recent survey by PwC Healthcare `The Wearable Life 2.0 – Connected living in a wearable world`.

The healthcare revolution is in John Lewis and the Apple Store 

This is clear evidence that the healthcare revolution is already underway and is gathering pace. And it’s being driven from the bottom up by consumers as government and the medical establishment still struggle to get to grips with the idea of patient-centred service and take advantage of the enthusiasm that decades of earnest health promotion information had previously failed to generate.

Innovation never comes from those with a vested interest in the status quo and, fed up of waiting for change, consumers are enthusiastically voting with their feet and wallets.  These days they are more likely to find something in John Lewis or the Apple Store that will make a significant difference to their health state than they are from their doctor or healthcare provider.

Discriminating against innovation

There may be a simple reason for this.  Just think about the cost and effort involved in proving to a sceptical health provider that your solution really does improve patients’ health and the professionals lot and the regulatory issues that have to be navigated to have the chance of doing so.

The reality is most people in healthcare provision from purchasers to professionals steer clear of anything that’s not mature enough to be considered past its sell by date in the commercial world.

Healthcare regulators and regulations too certainly discriminate against innovation and always err on the side of conservatism when considering implementing `new` technologies.  Certainly, in the case of the UK’s NHS, some recent and very public multi-billion pound failed implementations of far from cutting edge technologies have reinforced this situation.

Piecemeal and not-joined-up services

For healthcare technology innovators dealing with this is a lot of very hard work compared with selling devices directly to consumers or even putting their efforts elsewhere. But that may result in piecemeal and not-joined-up services that fail to deliver on the prize of more effective and efficient healthcare

For those who are not driven by altruism alone, the only case that really can be made to entrepreneurs who want to pursue the much harder path of proving their paradigm-shifting, clinical-grade technologies that will make use of all this consumer investment is that once they’ve proved it, they have stolen a march on competitors who have been less brave with all the commercial benefits and job satisfaction that delivers.

An appetite for the long haul

That’s a powerful incentive but even to get with sniffing distance of it requires backing by equally robust funding, strong stomachs for a fight and an appetite for the long haul that few possess.

So what’s to be done? If the complexities inherent in current healthcare provision are stifling innovation in healthcare that’s a toxic cocktail.  Someone, somewhere in government or health service provision has to grow a pair and break the deadlock. Developing a cohort of engaged, co-creating, risk-sharing potential provider customers could be a start.

Right now, though, it’s the technology innovators that are making all the running. Others need to get off the starting line.

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