You may have noticed some unfortunate headlines lately. Startups betting on making a killing on Obamacare, for example, probably in the context of health care delivery, an unfortunate choice of words. But it’s a chance of a lifetime for venture capitalists! How to make money right out of the gate, doing something with the $700 million of investor money that poured into the sector in just one quarter. Doctors, call now, operators are standing by! Get your payer administration or big data analytics software here, your care coordination app there!
Okay, forget that bubble – what about health wearables? Optimism abounds. Not much revenue, but lots of tentative, sort-of optimism about the business potential of wearables, and not just the fitness wearables, which are doing well. So let’s get clear – if there were Medicare reimbursement for telehealth, that market, around for many years, would clearly be bigger than it is (sized at $240 million end of 2013). Lots of interest and talking, along with Medicaid state-by-state activity in rural areas, and the Veterans Administration – and still CMS does not reimburse remote consultants or telehealth Medicare visits beyond a week, post-discharge – progress yes, alternative to ongoing face-to-face, not yet.
Wearable health monitoring devices for baby boomers? Would that be correlated with smart phone ownership? Half of all adults have smart phones – but only 39% of those aged 55-64 – possibly because they are waiting for a really usable phone – GreatCall is now marketing a smart phone for its demographic – and it’s certainly a given that user interface design and ease of configuration could help grow smart phone penetration among baby boomers. Until that happens, or until insurance reimbursement makes it so, are boomers likely to be big adopters of wearable health technologies that are outside the fitness realm? Cardiac monitoring is moving along – at least at Digital Health at CES 2014.
Perhaps devices and apps growth will be depend on specific disease treatment trends. Certainly they could be very useful in the diabetes space – will the Apple Watch and Samsung health gadgets make a difference in lifestyle of boomers with chronic conditions? Will Google (see prescription coverage of eyewear) do what telehealth and mobile health companies have struggled to accomplish? Will the pace accelerate as insurers begin to pay for remote consultation -- beyond stroke, psychiatry and pregnancy – seems like the time is now for basic remote consultations to become mainstream. After that – much larger revenue growth, also known as reimbursement, seems feasible for all types of mobile and remote health technologies.