The Apple Watch and other consumer-focused health care devices

 In Healthcare Trends

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently spoke about a new health-focused watch his company is developing. Appearing at Startup Fest Europe in Amsterdam, Cook predicted that this new watch will become the "holy grail" in health care. The new watch represents a growing trend in digital health: an increase in customer-focused medical products

It's all about the end user
According to research from IDC, 70 percent of the world's health care organizations are planning on investing in consumer-facing digital health products by 2018. These products include wearable devices, mobile applications, virtual care platforms and remote health monitoring. 

"Cost effective medical product design provides the best value for the end user. "

Cost-effective medical product design provides the best value for customers. When manufacturers and designers carefully study the customer experience and implement the needs of consumers into the product, the result is a superior tool that delivers the best possible value, doing only what the user wants it to do while remaining affordable. 

'Patients that feel like customers'
Cook sees health care as an industry that could be simplified. He told CNBC, "The health care system can be made much simpler, can have much better results, you can have patients that really feel like customers … and have systems and applications that bring out the best in the medical professionals."

According to a recent HealthMine survey, the majority consumers say these digital health tools deliver value on two ends: Over three quarters of respondents reported that these devices are improving their health, while 57 percent have seen these tools lower their medical costs. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed use these devices at least once per day. The survey involved 500 consumers who use mobile or Internet-connected health care devices. 

Focus on the user
One of the most important features of these devices is that their design processes focus on delivering value to the end users. Consumers are going digital, at a growing rate. Millennials are a major driving force, according to Persistent, Millennials are driving this digital user focus in a number of ways:

  • They're more likely to adopt and regularly use wearable health devices than Americans over 35. 
  • Half of them regularly check and compare health insurance options. 
  • They believe wearable tech will help to extend their lives. 

These factors show that today's consumers want more transparency regarding their health data and their insurance costs. Today's health care climate has changed. Patients are also customers, and they have more opportunities than ever to provide feedback and take their business elsewhere. By keeping patients satisfied, providers can receive financial rewards from payers. As this shift toward customer experience continues, there's an increasing need for digital health care tools to provide value to users. 

"Health care wearables can present the whole picture of an individual's health."

The 'whole picture'
By collecting real-time data in an easy-to-understand format, health care wearables like the new Apple Watch can present the whole picture of an individual's health, based on a number of factors. By making it easier for users to get this information upfront, it's easier for them to make health and fitness decisions, and it's also easier for them to bring any questions or concerns to their doctors. 

By helping to inform patients about their health, these devices can also allow doctors and nurses to focus on the most pressing, challenging issues, while patients with simple questions can get the answers they need earlier in the process. Users will be able to spend more time living their lives instead of sitting in a waiting room to see an overworked medical professional. 

The new Apple Watch
The Apple Watch 2 is expected to collect important data like heart rate and other vital signs. The device should also be able to incorporate data from lab results into its snapshot of user health. 

How does Cook expect the new Apple Watch to make a dent in the health care industry? He used a car's oil-change indicator light as an analogy in his interview with CNBC: "Many times we don't know there is a symptom, so if you could have a device that knew stuff about you, it would be pretty incredible and would extend life and extend quality." 

By designing a device that can monitor the body's data and provide warnings before the user even notices any symptoms, Apple could provide a more affordable tool for preventative care. 

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