The Week in Disruption goes beyond the headlines to uncover the significance of emerging trends in healthcare and beyond.
Is the digital health era finally here?
For decades, science fiction writers and healthcare prognosticators alike have eagerly predicted the dawn of a high-tech, high-touch era of personal health. This vision often includes a wardrobe of body sensors, the ability to communicate through voice commands, and, in more fantastical settings, physician robots.
In reality, progress toward a truly digital personal health experience has been uneven. The 2007 launch of the iPhone was soon followed by the development of thousands of mobile health applications. But there is little evidence that smartphone users have reaped improvements in health in the decade following the emergence of mobile health. In fact, a newly published study in the American Journal of Medicine finds little indication that “activity apps” and wearable devices like Fitbit translated to improved health for people with chronic disease.
There are signs, however, that a new generation of digital health offerings are addressing the chief drawback of earlier iterations: the lack of a meaningful connection to individual health information and the broader healthcare system. In the months since Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, received HIPAA clearance, a series of new health-related products have emerged on the smart speaker, from a voice-controlled device that connects hospital patients with nursing staff to home health aids for elderly individuals that allow them to talk to their caregivers, schedule appointments, and report their blood pressure.
Walgreens is also getting in on the action. The drugstore chain plans to expand its Find Care digital marketplace, where consumers can currently make telehealth and urgent care appointments, to offer chronic care management tools. Consumers using Find Care will soon be able to access a glucose monitoring system and a sensor-enhanced inhaler to help manage diabetes and asthma respectively.
The wedding registry where camping trumps cutlery
The wedding gift registry has long been a relatively stable, if staid, facet of tying the knot, marked largely by home-building staples like china, crystal, and bedsheets. Online gift registry Zola is gaining a foothold in the incumbent-dominated industry, though, by providing a new generation of stressed-out couples with more tailored choices.
Zola allows customers to register for “experiences” like camping, start cash funds for down payments or honeymoons, or set up more traditional gift registries so Aunt Maude can pick out approved china if a tent won’t suffice. And time-pressed customers can use the company’s Blender app to quickly swipe left or right on potential registry items.
“Everyone wants this mix that really reflects who they are as a couple,” Zola CEO Shan-Lyn Ma recently told the Wall Street Journal. "If they are a couple that loves to go camping together, you will see a lot of camping gear on their registry.”
Innovation at a glance
- Amazon and Cerner are developing a new, cloud-based platform for Cerner’s electronic health record, as part of a broader partnership focused on developing artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities
- Patients at the University of Tennessee Medical Center will soon be able to access their health records on their iPhone
- Stanford University and Pinterest are collaborating on a new mobile application that offers guided meditation and stress-relief activities to users who search for mental health information
- A new Medicare pilot program will allow physicians to access their patients’ claims data to guide care decisions
- Hospital groups are calling for changes to simplify and improve the 13-year-old HCAHPS patient experience survey, including creating a digital version of the survey, which can currently only be completed via mail or over the phone