Fitness Trackers in Patient Health – What Insurers Need to Know

FitnessTracker1.pngToday, one in ten people in the United States owns a fitness tracker, and the rapid growth of wearable devices presents the healthcare industry with a compelling opportunity: by analyzing the myriad of data collected by wearables, insurers can gain insight into an individual’s health and fitness, and use that insight to enable diagnoses, recommendations and interventions that result in improved patient outcomes.

Improved outcomes, meanwhile, mean fewer doctor visits, less medication and reduced costs across the healthcare delivery chain.

To effectively deploy fitness trackers in patient health, however, insurers must boost capabilities in some critical areas. One is multi-platform integration: to gain meaningful insights, data collected from wearables must be tied to an individual’s existing Patient Health Information (PHI) records, and seamlessly shared across multiple disparate systems. Given the rigorous standards around PHI, the idea of bringing wearables data into the mix presents a challenge. More specifically, an inherent contradiction arises between the need for data sharing on the one hand, and stringent security and privacy standards on the other.

Insurer strategies will also likely involve collaboration with manufacturers of wearable devices; this means coordinating go-to-market plans with retailers – who may have dramatically different agendas and priorities. In addition to disrupting traditional business models, this cross-industry integration will require operational alignment between distinct data sets.

Robust big data and analytics are another imperative. Wearables collect volumes of data – gleaning insights will require cognitive and machine learning capabilities to identify patterns and associations within seemingly random numbers and data sets. Insurers will need to deploy smart tools and drive deeper collaboration with a wide range of entities – engineers, physicians, patients and technology companies – to develop and optimize analytic systems.

In addition to analyzing health information, insurers also face the task of measuring the success of wellness initiatives, in terms of improving outcomes and reducing demand for healthcare services and improving the bottom line. Key variables here include questions around the conditions most likely to be positively impacted by wellness programs, as well as the demographics and profiles of consumers most likely to participate in and benefit from such initiatives.

Some wearable technology cons must also be considered. Apart from broader security concerns, the problem of wearable technology and privacy must be considered. Many consumers will not want their insurers gaining access to details of their health and fitness data, so initiatives must account for individual preferences.

The prospect of improved patient outcomes through wearable technology is drawing attention across the healthcare industry, specifically from insurers seeking to work more closely with providers. While the potential benefits are compelling, the obstacles are formidable.

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Topics: Financial Services & Insurance, healthcare

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