The Connected Health Summit recently gathered leading executives and industry leaders in sunny San Diego, California. Parks Research Associates organized an event packed with people and creative energy. The topics ranged from B2B connected healthcare issues—such as smart homes—to consumer issues, focusing on how to engage consumers. AI was the hottest and most promising topic, since AI is already making huge ripples in the connected healthcare pond after only three years. Unfortunately, I left the conference less-than-impressed about the state of the industry.
Most of the participants at the Summit still seemed to miss the three critical insights that we have been advocating for over six years at Sage Health Strategy:
1. Nobody wants to get sick. Not in a hypochondriac kind of way, but more of an “I’d like to avoid metabolic disease” or “not get cancer” and I’m willing to use tools and metrics to meet this goal. Case in point: non-diabetics are using glucose monitors to AVOID future metabolic diseases.
2. If you get sick, you should catch it early. This is one of the key functions of wearable health monitors.
3. Get over whatever sickness you have quickly. During five years of attending these events, the same discussions get recycled over and over: getting a payer to cover, or not pushing, or helping your Fitbits and other devices achieve FDA-approval so the medical community can use the data in a diagnosis, etc. Sage Health Strategy has advocated and presented to various device firms about meeting the data fidelity requirement of the FDA and letting the Developer community proceed from there. This would achieve the 1st pillar of our consumer healthcare insight.
However, this all recently changed.
The Awesome is Coming!
As of September 12th, 2018, the standard for a wearable has changed forever. Apple made it possible for the medical community to use the Apple Watch’s data. This is now the new table stakes in the wearable world. Apple definitely deserves kudos for being the first mass consumer electronics firm (if not the first actual company) for taking this pivotal step in digital healthcare.
All the hopes and dreams of the last seven-plus years can now start to bear fruit. We will begin to see what true connected health looks like and can do in mass numbers. Overall, this will help drive down the cost of healthcare and give doctors the contextual, precision data they have dreamed of.
This feature will appeal to both those that need FDA-level tracking and those that are pursuing a preventative lifestyle. We will start to see the value that connected healthcare can bring, as the Apple promotion-machine drives awareness.
This change prompts the question: Why would one want to buy a fitness/ health device that can’t be used by your doctor? We firmly believe that, over the next 3-5 years, the FDA-approval feature will be a line in the sand for ALL consumable wearable devices. So Garmin, Fitbit, Polar, Samsung, and all their friends better get their act together NOW! Apple’s strategic move will force our industry to look up and move in the right direction—which the consumers have been demanding all along.
Not Too Much Credit
To counteract the poor research and editing of the mainstream media (and to make sure Apple freaks don’t get too ahead of themselves) we must point out that the Apple Watch IS NOT the first FDA-approved, over-the-counter EKG consumer device. AliveCor’s ECG was. The process for a consumer device to achieve FDA-approval has been around since AliveCor received the FDA’s blessing in 2014.
AliveCor pioneered this, but the rest of the industry didn’t listen or follow. Kind of like Houston losing to the Warriors in the second half of game seven, where Houston lost it far more than the Warriors won it (and I’m a long-suffering Dubs fan!). With FDA-approval, the digital health wearable industry had over four years to get out in front of Apple and put Apple on its heels. The industry didn’t act and handed Apple this beautiful opportunity. As time goes on and the potential of wearables is finally achieved, we hope that AliveCor has its footnote in history the way the MITS Altair 8800 did with PCs.
On a final note, we hope this announcement prods the investment / Venture community to stop being fearful and to start funding health and wellness consumer devices with an eye towards FDA-approval. In the same way that costs have been driven out of the IT market, there is now a tremendous opportunity to drive costs out of the FDA-approval process, as well as the US healthcare system in general.