The applause meter is overwhelmed by Digital Health. The racket level about Digital Health (wow, a Check Engine light for your body!!) and its pseudo-pseudonyms is rising to new heights. And when we say racket, of course, we mean the so-called good news: Apple (amazingly, all by itself and with its HealthKit announcement) transforms healthcare. Or maybe Samsung will transform healthcare first with its Simbaud platform. Funding last year for biosensing wearables reached $282M in 2013, tweeted by many. Folks have delivered petitions to HHS to remove restrictions. And of course there is that ever-popular drive to improve that elusive patient engagement.
Yet there's the not-so-good news. People stop using their fitness gadgets. Is Fitbit (or LG) the quintessence of Digital Health? Federal privacy laws may slow down 'health care consumerization.' Is health care consumerization, much talked about by doctors, Digital Health? Is patient engagement the key, perhaps better customer service, a la Disney? Here is a link to your cholesterol test results, now do something because we know that your engagement is linked to better outcomes -- is that Digital Health?
So many lose their gadgets, but worse is the loss of our enthusiasm. The fitness gadget market is saturated with devices and after a boom in consumer usage noted in 2013, now half no longer use it, one-third stopped using it within six months. The US obesity rate is still climbing. Patient engagement is still an elusive and somewhat confused goal, meaning something different to patients (gain more control) versus health care industry providers (lower costs).
Our health will not be transformed by Apple's new app. Even if Apple holds multiple meetings with the FDA (yay, the iWatch is coming!!!!) -- health outcomes will not be transformed, unless it is for the worse and we are talking about smartphone-related crashes or falling into manholes while texting, or time spent on the phone, gaining weight. But the investor community (via the media) clearly IS being transformed, at least temporarily, by a belief that your health, our health can be transformed through apps, devices, portals -- and from outside the health industry itself. But what is the meaningful measure to determine whether this investment is worth it?