Gizmos and Gadgets Go One Step Further

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Gizmos and Gadgets Go One Step Further

Alex Hurd

Senior Director, Product Development, Growth, and Payer Innovation—Health & Wellness at Walmart

In healthcare, we are fortunate to serve in an industry with a mission of improving the health of our customers. And we live in an exciting era – one in which technological advances progress at rapid pace, reinventing the way in which healthcare service providers and customers interact. CES creates an opportunity to witness the increasingly crucial role technology plays in health, wellness and consumer engagement. Succeeding in improving population health will be directly proportional to an ability to focus in three areas:

  1. intense focus on understanding customers’ needs and transforming those insights into trusting relationships
  2. ability to create accessible, convenient, high-quality omni-channel experiences that seamlessly tie virtual and face-to-face encounters
  3. untangling complex eco-systems consisting of retailers, providers, payers, manufacturers, technology companies, governments, NGOs and many others on behalf of the consumer

There was no lack of exciting health and wellness products this year at CES, from connected baby monitors to portable ECGs to digital prescription dispensing tools for seniors. It was encouraging to see a plethora of solutions in the behavioral health space, with all kinds of solutions to monitor stress and anxiety. One of these tools – a smartwatch that measures stress levels - can even interface directly with your car’s computer system, directing it to adjust the vehicle’s speed and navigation and even prompt a seat massage. It was also fascinating to see the expansion of voice assistants into all types of household items, such as mirrors and televisions. Without a doubt, we will continue to see voice increasingly integrated into all aspects of our lives, including health and wellness.

Lots of the solutions I saw spoke directly to me as a consumer – the baby monitor that can detect a sudden rise in a baby’s temperatures would have been critical a few years ago when my infant son went into a febrile seizure during an afternoon nap (he’s fine…but his mom and I will never forget that ambulance ride). I will also be closely following the comprehensive caregiver solutions that are coming to market, offering real time reports on daily activities, including diet, mobility and medication adherence, to support my aging father who lives on the other side of the country and is in turn caregiver to my mother, who suffers from dementia.

The challenge I have with all great point solutions is that they are exactly that…specific tools that address one or the other aspect of my family’s health and wellness but are completely disjointed from one another. Pulling together my own personal eco-system of devices and software may be doable but would realistically cost me either a small fortune or significantly increase my stress levels in figuring out how to make everything tie together.

The biggest opportunity, I believe, therefore lies in taking these fascinating capabilities and integrating them into package or service solutions: take the suite of connected diagnostic devices introduced at this year’s CES (stethoscope, otoscope, thermometer, etc.). Standalone, these devices are marginally interesting, but if they were offered as part of a monthly subscription service that included around-the clock-telemedicine access to my children’s pediatric providers then we’d potentially have a game-changer for my family. With four young children, this service would likely save us many trips to the urgent care clinic and significantly reduce my out-of-pocket healthcare expenses (not to mention those of my employer). Similarly, the personalized DNA test that gives me tailored food recommendations is brilliant…and would be even smarter if the results could pre-populate a customized shopping list for online grocery pick-up to have all the right items delivered to the trunk of my car or directly to my home once a week. Mix it up from time to time with coupons and recipes for interesting substitutes…pure genius.

The challenge and opportunity for the industry over the coming years will be in utilizing all of these cool gadgets, and more importantly, the data they generate, to deliver true solutions for the real problems. With the right advances in technology AND regulation, we should expect to see the industry become better at combining divergent types of data – medical, behavioral, consumption, activity, environmental, and many others – to deliver actionable insights for consumers to take better care of themselves and their families.