For decades, a person’s relationship with their own health has been mostly a top-down affair – with physicians, institutions, hospitals and payors firmly in charge of decision-making. Today, however, a seismic shift in power control is well underway, as individual consumers are now calling the shots. These empowered consumers are taking much greater accountability for their own health decisions – proactively managing their health and wellness and increasingly dictating how the healthcare industry operates.
This power shift is aided by innovations in digital health and major developments in mobile and connected technologies, which are transforming everything from how we communicate, source information and shop, to how we monitor our health and wellbeing. In fact, according to Kantar’s MARS Consumer Health data, the use of wearable technology has risen sharply in the United States, with 20% of American adults reporting that they own a wearable fitness tracker, smartwatch, activity band or clip-on (e.g., Fitbit, Garmin, Vivo).
There has also been a rise in telemedicine, with 5.2 million U.S. adults having benefited from telemedicine in the past year (Kantar’s 2019 MARS Consumer Health Study), and a projected market value of US $35 billion by 2025 (Statista, Total U.S. telemedicine market size forecast 2014-2025). Among healthcare professionals, 23% indicate they already use telemedicine within their practice (Kantar’s 2018 Sources and Interactions Study), while 62% say they are likely to use it within the next five years (Kantar’s 2018 Digital Insights Study). For digital health companies, life sciences companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and other industry stakeholders, understanding user and physician attitudes towards mHealth devices, as well as relevant regulations around device safety and accuracy, are important to driving business growth and success.
From our research, we also found that awareness is a significant barrier to the use of medical-grade, web connected devices. For example, 59% of diabetes patients are unaware of the availability of web-connected glucose monitoring systems, and 66% of patients with heart conditions were unaware of web-connected blood pressure monitors. Additionally, many digital health products are expensive – with 50% of physicians saying that mHealth and wearable devices are too expensive for many of their patients. Healthcare is clearly evolving toward a greater focus on the “patient as a person,” including information collecting and holistic wellness. Devices that support this focus will be front and center for that movement. Opportunity and growth in digital health markets will always come from understanding people’s motivations, behaviors, needs and challenges – and then finding ways to improve their lives. For businesses able to rise to this challenge and successfully navigate this landscape, the payoff will be extremely rewarding.