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

Tech innovators can do this -- create the MRSA contact map

Do you know anyone who has MRSA?  Well, actually, you probably do. One in one hundred people carry the antibiotic-resistant skin infection known as MRSA – though not all develop the symptoms and disease that requires diagnosis and treatment.  MRSA is both highly contagious and highly resistant to antibiotics. It is a nightmare for hospitals and long-term care facilities. Forget the technically self-vindicating distinction of hospital versus community-acquired or the fact that the incidence is dropping in the former, but not the latter. MRSA is a little-discussed issue (except for survivors). But it doesn't just impact elderly and hospitalized patients with weakened immune systems – like long-term care facilities, where staff can inadvertently spread it like wildfire. It is also a vexing problem for the NFL, where the infection has literally been a plague for the past 10 years. And in college sports, where between 8 and 31% are noted to carry MRSA, no doubt passed around, in the locker room before and after games.

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When the media loves a tech brand, is it time for change?

For writers about technology – tech is personal.  Writers believe that their audiences want to know about them and their tech lives. So many reviews and blogs have been penned lately in the first person: ‘My experience trying the latest show’s featured gadget and what this will be like for me in my daily life. I need a watch, I don’t need a watch, I can’t tell time anyway. I look at my phone constantly, why would I want a device that would keep me from looking at my phone? I don’t have any meetings that matter enough to make me wear a watch.’ So here is my personal version to help the library of questionable opinions be more complete.

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The doctor and staff are remotely controlled – literally

Crises drive health innovation. The presumed potential and much-publicized looming shortage of doctors is worrisome – or at least their lopsided geographic distribution is a concern. Or there are not enough medical schools to train new doctors. Or doctors are tired of being doctors.  Or is it the problem of keeping down the cost of actually seeing a doctor or a nurse practitioner? Is it that population health risks drive the need for improved chronic disease management?  Is it that there are or may soon be so many new patients? Or is the problem one of wasting the time of so many human staff in a hospital doing back-breaking and/or mundane tasks?

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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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