The Uber-ization, Yelp-ification and FitBit-ting of Healthcare

Internet of Things (IoT), an environment where data sharing via a vast inter-connected network of inexpensive sensors, GPS and “the cloud,” is fast becoming an everyday reality, changing the ways we work, travel, entertain and get entertained–indeed the way we live. “The Internet of (Healthy) Things,” a panel at the 12th annual Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium, gathered experts from various fields to discuss examples of IoT from other industries that could majorly impact healthcare.

Panelists included Jessica Cambry, software engineer and data scientist; Aymen Elfiky, attending physician at Dana Farber Cancer Institute; John Feland, CEO of Argus Insights and Juhan Sonin, creative director at GoInvo.

The Trends

IoT in general is trending toward “Uber-ization” with “Uber-like,” on-demand platforms becoming increasingly common for various services, including medicine. Companies like Heal, Pager and RetraceHealth are already bringing physicians home.

There is also “Yelp-ification” or the creation of search platforms for local, user-vetted services.

And then of course there is the ubiquitous “FitBit-ting” trend seen already in a range of markets–from a “FitBit for learning” to even a “FitBit for stoners.”

What can work in healthcare?

The panelists remarked on the drop in wearables. Indeed a separate panel convened to discuss the questions surrounding wearables and their market presence. The use of wearables alone may be dropping over the long term, but the panelists remarked there are ways in which wearables could successfully be used with other devices and platforms. Cambry gave the example of a system tailored for a particular situation that includes an Apple watch, the Nest system and a simple motion detection camera which she had put together to help care for her brother who has a movement disorder.

Cambry pointed out that while no single wearable might answer a need, layering of technology solutions that exist can work as can context aware, customized systems that give users more control.

An important consideration of IoHT is data security. This can quickly become a major concern because each each end-point, in other words, each data-generating device, poses a potential security threat.

Where will IoT take us?

The panel spoke about a future when the virtual visit would be the default. But before that can happen, technology would need to evolve and be used in a manner that makes users forget it is even there. A time when the ubiquitous sensor haven translates into the home, as Sonin pointed out. Dr. Elfiky spoke about the potential of IoHT to improve the quality of healthcare and life, to help us recognize our common humanity.

Krina Patel

Krina Patel

    Krina Patel is a writer/illustrator and educator committed to building provider-patient relationships. Dr. Patel’s doctoral research on the body and cognition at Harvard University and her experience adopting and promoting technology in education brings her to her current work in the health and technology sector. Follow her on Twitter, @positivelylearn.

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