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5 Key Questions About Wearables Answered

Lesley Solomon, executive director of Brigham & Women's Innovation Hub, led a discussion between

Lesley Solomon, executive director of Brigham & Women’s Innovation Hub, led a panel discussion of four healthcare decision-makers.  |  Photo courtesy of BWH Innovation Hub.

Earlier this week, a gathering at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge brought together several of Boston’s leading wearable tech innovators. At the “Big Data Gets Personal: Transforming Healthcare in the Age of Wearables” event, Lesley Solomon, executive director of Brigham & Women’s Innovation Hub, led a panel discussion focusing on the opportunities and challenges of utilizing wearables to improve human health. Co-founder of MicroCHIPS Michael Cima, Co-founder and CEO of Quanttus Shahid Azim, Co-founder and Executive VP of Corporate Development at MC10 Ben Schlatka and Senior Business Development Manager of athenahealth Mandira Singh were among those contributing their insights.

We captured the highlights for those who may have missed the event:

1. What makes a wearable?

From Fitbit to the Apple watch, Azim shared that a wearable should adapt to the needs of the wearer and will therefore likely change over time. Cima echoed this idea stating that wearables need to have an ubiquitous nature to be used by an individual. With a spectrum of products that could fit the definition of “wearable,” the panelists agreed that a wearable should give users some insight into their personal health. Whether the technology is active or passive, per Singh, the generated data is of value to the consumer.

2. How do we integrate wearables with existing apps and systems?

Focusing not on how the system will fit with the wearable, but rather on how the data captured by the technology can be valuable with the current environment is one approach supported by Singh. Wearable tech should create ROI, generate results and ultimately provide value to both the wearer and the market. Solomon stated a need for a platform that collects and compiles data from various sources, including both the wearable and the existing apps or systems. A centralized location could reduce redundancies and better leverage the data captured.

3. Is clinical evidence needed to move a product forward?

Considering at what point and why a wearable may need clinical testing is an important step for some companies, stated Singh. Right now a wide spectrum of what may be considered a wearable exists. That definition will need to be tightened to determine if regulation is needed. Shlatka views the demand for evidence and clinical data as necessary when the tech relates to a specific disease-state or therapy. Starting with an IRB could be the first step to demonstrating the utility of a wearable product.

4. What opportunities and challenges come with the rapid growth of the wearable market?

Building solutions that matter and easy-to-use technology are key to making the most of the expanding market, said Schlatka. While consumer engagement will continue to be a challenge if technology is not seamlessly integrated with behavior change, Singh argued that this could be an opportunity to broaden engagement among collaborators. There needs to be an overlap between healthcare and the consumer in order to cover the last mile of care which will require connecting stakeholders.

5. Where do we see wearables in 2025?

Believing that the market is moving toward utilizing wearables’ data in a more valuable way, Azim predicted a larger focus on users making more informed decisions regarding their health. Similarly, Schlatka considers the purpose of the data as the driver for the future of wearables, with the possibility for seamless integration of everyday life with this technology. Looking outside of our borders, Singh sees potential for the wearables trend to become a global movement. While popular in the West, how can the technology be leveraged in other countries, she asked?

Olivia Japlon

Olivia Japlon

    Olivia Japlon is currently the eHealth Programs Coordinator at the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI), the state agency charged with promoting the adoption and use of health IT. She graduated from Tufts University in 2013, double majoring in Spanish and Community Health. Olivia remains connected to Tufts by volunteering at local events, and is an active traveler, frequently visiting her hometown of Chicago.

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