Research about baby boomers and their use of consumer health technologies.

Health wearables, health apps – for boomers, what difference does it make?

Apple takes the wind out of wearable health sails.  The health innovation hype-and-hope set just can’t have what they think they want. Unfortunately, Apple’s smart watchmakers couldn’t figure out how to make reliable stress monitors, an electrocardiogram or a blood pressure monitor. And that was even after numerous meetings with the FDA and announcing their ‘moral obligation to do more.’ Uh not now, but maybe later. Now it’s just going to be yet-another me-too Smart Watch for the cool but not stressed out one-of-everything Apple gadget buyers. They already read the Consumer Reports reviews and found those watches wanting and for whom pedometers, and their current app step counters just don’t cut it. So armed with their iPhone and $349, apparently the 11.8 million projected Apple Watch buyers will, uh, buy it anyway.   

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My Fitness Nag: Boomers, apps and devices

Mother is annoyed.  In the lineage of wearable fitness devices I have owned, the motion cookie from Sen.se’s Mother has now been in my pocket for a few days.  It seems like a waste of a maternalistic nudge.  Since Mother (we have nicknamed it “Mrs. 1984”) knows nothing about water aerobics – unlike some others, the sensor isn’t waterproof – the software thinks that I’m slacker. Periodically an email arrives with snide messages like “It’s your call, but you should probably go take a walk.” Or “Come on, take a few more steps, at least it'll seem like you tried...”

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Hearables – hearing technology for boomers and beyond

The numbers are daunting -- must have been those rock bands in the 60s and 70s.  Hearing loss is a big problem among baby boomers -- but their propensity to solve it with hearing aids? Not so much. In 2012, there were 4.5 million of those aged 50-59 with hearing loss, but only 4.5% wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids are associated with the stigma of aging -- but facts are facts. Hearing issues may be attributed to overly loud rock bands from long ago.  Hearing aids are costly and typically not covered by insurance, irritating to wear -- just a few reasons cited by various sources. But those serving the boomer health market, take heed -- once boomers are seniors and take their untreated hearing loss with them into older age ranges, their gait is also impacted, and we know with gait issues comes the risk of falling -- and we know how health risks and costs rise with the frequency and severity of falls. Here are some recent technology introductions that can enhance the ability to hear -- text is from the companies' own material:

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Shining a Light on Boomer Health and the xHealth technologies

Boomers and Digital Health technologies -- not visible to entrepreneurs. Affordable Care Act and associated requirements and penalties have spurred investment in the so-called Digital Health market, including tech-enabled tracking devices, wearable patches, mobile applications, which has reached eye-popping numbers, $4 billion in 2014. 95 companies were acquired for more than $20 billion in disclosed transactions in 2014. Rock Health notes that 73% of physicians believe that HIT will improve the quality of care provided in the longer term – higher among physicians with 10 or less years in practice (81%) and those in larger practices (80%). However, the market appears to heading in opposite directions. In one direction, the wearable fitness market and consumer-focused portals have captured investor attention during much of 2013 and 2014. These have produced limited revenue – and could be summed up as innovation by the young, for the young.  In the opposite direction, innovators are focused on the classic categories of Health IT – streamlining and automating classic hospital and medical practice categories, seeking to save practitioners time, labor, and money – enabling them to see more patients, more effectively in less time.

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Five Digital Health News Items That May Matter to Boomers

Outside of CES, imagine, there is other health tech news.  Hard to believe, but in the back-to-regularly-scheduled information flow, other announcements and offerings may have gotten lost in the pre- and post-CES tsunami. Always useful to look back at previous event-related hype, uh, news. Note this update about last year’s health gaggle of no-longer-exciting gadgety – maybe the defunct belong to the ‘crapgadgets’ as dutifully tracked by the announcement taggers at Engadget. Or at least they are gone gadgets.  But other tech developments have been noted recently that could be helpful to baby boomers who suffer from chronic diseases and other health-related concerns: 

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CES 2015 Part 2 – Seven Tech Offerings for Health

CES and Health Tech Innovation – Made for Each Other. It was a long week in an analyst’s life and a slow slog around the Sands Exhibition Hall in between sessions at Life Long Tech and Digital Health Summits. With its endless rows of fitness tech, wearables, robotics and healthy life style gadgets/gear seemed even more vibrant than the Las Vegas Convention Center – humming with car tech, large screen TVs, and the lemming-like disciples of the Internet of Things (sigh).  The dust will settle on the IoT insanity soon – and people will realize that the IoT isn’t a product category even though it sounds cool today (and also did in 2000). The array of health tech offerings (both in the Sands and elsewhere) speaks to investor and inventor belief in the opportunity, though the target buyer is not obvious. Is it the doctor, the pharmacy, the department store, nursing home/rehab, the hospital...or (perish the thought) the consumer? But meanwhile there were some interesting companies and combinations of health-related tech. Following CES 2015: Part 1 from yesterday, here are a few (not necessarily ready for prime time) that caught the eye/ear:

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Pets, boomers, and health – an Everyday (Health) occurrence

Boomers have a lot of pets – mostly dogs and cats.  Americans will have spent $58 billion on pets in 2014. Whoa, how did that get so big? To put that in perspective, the entire US cell phone market is $60 billion. And $5.5 billion spent on pet grooming – put into context, the entire and fragmented human hair care services industry is only $20 billion.  In Ohio, dog licenses are issued at a greater rate than birth certificates. There are an estimated owned 78 million dogs and 74 million cats in the US -- and in 2012, it was estimated that 62% of all households owned at least one pet.

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Top five Boomer Health Tech 2014 blog posts

Wearables for boomers -- connecting two cans with a string. If the market for consumer wearables is so ginormous, then why won't boomers adopt?  Picking up the two cans and string is the basis for hearing the missing conversation. That means finding and listening to the right party -- the patient who most needs the technology. Apparently, in order to realize the $6 billion market by 2018, useful data must be provided to the user. That would seem self-evident to innovators, but maybe not. The makers of health wearables are hustling to integrate with Electronic Medical Records (good luck!!!!), forge relationships with corporate wellness programs and health care organizations that can make the magical happen -- compliance.  Forbes quoted a PwC executive a few weeks ago saying the wonderful and obvious: "People like the idea of these devices. They just don’t want to bother with them." Useful data, however, is not static -- familiarity with your steps and sleep patterns -- let's face it -- that's boring. Configuring what's interesting, exceptional and changing -- that's difficult.  And horrors, what if wearables aren't even all that wearable?

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How about the Microsoft Band for Boomers and Beyond?

An exercise band – or something more?  Microsoft in-market consumer health tech invariably gets less positive hype than Apple’s yet-to-be. But as with Kinect, presumably a game controller, that when the tech is out in the market, capabilities may be revealed. To me, the potential emerges – starting with wellness tracking of aging boomers. It will take app developers to do something with the exposed API, and it would take a service provider or software integrator to want to do it.  Independent of device platform, “Microsoft wants to be to be the central repository for all the world's fitness data.” These are mHealth-crazed times – and many crazier trends are emerging for odd devices with less certain appeal.  And at the moment, the Band is sold out.

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Five Boomer Health Technologies from the 2014 mHealth Summit

Within the Health IT paradigm, self-care for boomers deserves highlighting. The mHealth Summit 2014 was mostly a health IT event, filled with consultants, health care professionals, startups focused on practice improvements, patient engagement, health care informatics and big data.  But amid all of the IT, there were solutions that could be leveraged by boomer self health management tools that fall into the xHealth umbrella -- Digital, mobile, and wearable health technology. They are interesting when grouped -- thus deserve to be called out separately.

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