It’s no secret that chronic disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, taking up 90 percent of healthcare spending in the United States. For the last several years, there has been a rise in discussions and research around the promise of connected health devices helping manage and prevent chronic conditions as well as healthcare spending. However, today a number of factors are coming together to make that promise a reality. This includes the improvement of real-world data insights that home devices provide, growth of telemedicine, proven results as well as acceptance by doctors, insurance companies, patients, and more. The growth and adoption of utilizing connected health devices is having a real positive impact on a number of chronic conditions.
Let’s take diabetes as an example. An estimated 34.2 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and approximately 88 million have prediabetes. Obesity is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes and a condition that can be managed and in some cases reversed with strategic weight control. Diabetes also leads to other health issues including high blood pressure, which can also be improved if patients have access to the right tools. Today, the overall enhanced access to and interest in connected devices and remote monitoring are playing a part in both the prevention and management of diabetes and conditions surrounding it. Let’s take a look at why now’s the time to start implementing connected health devices into people’s daily lives to help prevent and track diabetes.
Medical-grade Devices with Imperative Data Insights
Today’s at-home connected health devices provide a wealth of insights. Now, people can use clinically-validated devices in their homes that offer medical-grade health monitoring. From glucometers, activity trackers, and wireless blood pressure monitors to sleep trackers and scales, connected devices now allow people to monitor crucial health insights that impact diabetes and other conditions with the same risk factors including weight, blood pressure, BMI, and much more. These data insights can not only help patients with their overall health management but also provide their physicians with detailed information on their daily habits and levels to better treat them and detect issues early. Additionally, the data that these trackers can now monitor provides researchers, medical institutions and even insurance companies with imperative insights that can help them create overall solutions for managing, preventing, and diagnosing diabetes.
Proven Results and Positive Patient Outcomes
For those at risk, it is possible to prevent, better manage, or delay type 2 diabetes by implementing an active and healthy lifestyle. Study after study have now shown that the use of connected health devices improve people’s health and help them better manage specific conditions.
In fact, a study published in JMIR Research Protocols found that individuals who used activity trackers for 12 to 14 weeks lost an average of 0.5 pounds a week and reported an increase in confidence in leading an overall more active lifestyle. The National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DDP) also found that having a structured health program of reduced calories and increased activity can lead to a weight loss of five to seven percent of body weight.
A study on the benefits of monitoring blood pressure at-home found that a group of patient participants who used a connected blood pressure monitor that shared information with physicians virtually saw a significant decrease in their systolic blood pressure. Fifty-one percent of self-care support subjects achieved the guideline-recommended target of <130/80 mmHg, compared with 31% of control subjects.
Whether a person is using a connected device to track their activity, weight, blood pressure, or glucose levels, these devices are proven to make monitoring and even preventing diabetes more manageable.
Expansion in Telemedicine and Physician Acceptance
A hurdle the connected health device industry has had to overcome to reach mass adoption is the acceptance of these products by physicians. In order for these devices to be used to their full potential and benefit patients long-term, physicians need to find value in them and the data they collect. Luckily, we’ve seen a rise in physician adoption in telemedicine and connected devices to work with, diagnose, and treat patients. A study by the American Medical Association that was released this year showed that there has been an increase in acceptance by physicians in recommending and using digital tools in their practices.
This increase in acceptance is particularly true today, during the global pandemic, when people are social distancing and physicians are turning to telemedicine to connect with patients. The overall shift now allows medical professionals to more easily connect with patients and have a better understanding of their health levels day-to-day, outside of their in-person visits, which allows them to provide more personalized treatment plans and catch issues early.
Insurance Companies and Government Program Support
Outside of physicians utilizing connected devices more in their private practices, we’ve also seen more health organizations, institutions, and insurance companies tap into these products and their insights to better understand issues like diabetes and help people manage or treat their conditions. A couple of examples of this include National DDP, which I discussed earlier, which was created by the CDC to create solutions to help people prevent type 2 diabetes.
Secondly, Platejoy, a personal meal planning assistant company, launched a program to help customers make positive improvements to their lifestyles that could help them prevent diabetes. The goal of the program was for their users to lose 5% of their starting body weight, based on CDC recommendations for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Participants were given a Withings scale that connected with their Platejoy account where they were able to set and track their goals. This program, which is still ongoing, has seen promising results so far.
Finally, insurance companies have seen the value of connected health devices with several, including John Hancock Plan and Humana, starting to use trackers to better understand consumer habits and also provide incentives for people who make positive lifestyle adjustments.
Overall, we are in a moment when connected health devices have been proven to provide valuable insights on people’s health habits and levels that help patients and the medical community better manage, understand and treat conditions like diabetes. The medical community and patients alike are also more open to using these devices in their homes and practices, which is a key to success.
If physicians, health organizations, insurance companies and patients continue to use connected health devices to empower, educate and encourage people to make lasting improvements to their overall health, there is a massive opportunity to decrease the number of Americans who have prediabetes and help those with diabetes to manage their condition better. With the annual cost in America on diagnosed diabetes at $327 million and millions of people impacted, it is worth using tools that are readily available to lower these numbers.
Charlotte Puechmaill Bio
Charlotte Puechmaille leads the strategy for new health businesses at Withings, where she has worked for over eight years. Prior to her current role, she held several retail and B2B management positions at the connected health leading company. Before Withings, Puechmaille worked for several innovative French start-ups and held a consulting role in a major FMCG company.