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If you’ve resolved to be more assertive about your health in 2013, then you’re in luck. There are lots of new digital gadgets out there to help you get healthy and stay that way.
Melissa Thompson, Internet startup expert and CEO of the online counseling platform, TalkSession, said there are five digital health trends to watch for in 2013.
In 2012, Nike introduced FuelBand, a device that allows individuals to track their daily activity and expended energy on a computer or mobile device.
Since then, mainstream consumers have become more enthusiastic about digital self-monitoring devices, like Jawbone’s UP, a wristband that tracks everything from the wearer’s sleep patterns to daily caloric intake, and uploads this data to a mobile app.
Other noteworthy digital devices for the healthy set include Withing’s WiFi body scale and Lapka, an iPhone compatible device that monitors the user’s environment and creates reports on humidity, electromagnetic fields, radiation levels and the amount of nitrates in raw produce.
Thompson said consumers should expect to see many more of these self-monitoring devices in 2013.
“The efficacy of these devices is still evolving,” Thompson said. “There is clear room in this space for innovation, aggregation and higher efficiency. 2013 will be a year of competition amongst many new products, and we will undoubtedly see incredible technological advances passed on to the consumer in the form of novel ‘toys,’ that if used with intention, will better our interactions with our own health care management.”
Sweet and simple design
Thompson believes that design will be the deciding factor in which digital health care startups succeed this year and which ones go the way of the dodo.
New mobile apps that help people track diet and exercise information are seeking to simplify data entry and engage users with interactive and attractive formatting. Thompson notes that apps like Thryve, which tracks the user’s diet through pictures and graphs, represent the future of digital health care management.
Big ideas for Big Data
There are countless apps and devices to track things like heart rate and footsteps. And while it is often interesting and novel for people to see how many steps they take in a day, it is not always clear to users what they should do with this data.
Thompson said another trend she expects to see in 2013 is the emergence of Big Data apps that also have real-world applications.
“Recently, companies have been applying data in smart, relevant ways,” Thompson said, “as the end user now demands an answer to the question, ‘How does this help me?’”
Some companies that are already cashing in on the practical use of Big Data include LUMO, whose posture-correcting device tells users when they’re slouching and suggests improvements in body movements; OvaScience, a life science company that applies user data to its development of new technologies for in vitro fertilization; and HAPILABS, whose digital devices include the HAPIfork, which tracks eating habits and warns the user to slow down.
Backlash against benefit cuts
Thompson said that she expects health care costs in the U.S. to rise in 2013, and with this rise in costs, she predicts new cuts in coverage, particularly for mental health care.
“I predict that we will see wide-ranging effects from decreases in mental health care benefits,” Thompson said. “I believe there will be a backlash against these policy changes as insurance companies realize it is more costly to deprive certain benefits to those in need than offer them.”
Patients own medical records
Another trend that Thompson predicts for 2013 is users of the health care system in the U.S. taking control of their personal health information, most notably their medical records. Health care providers must abide by the United Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), which dictates that all health care information for individuals remain private. But Thompson said she foresees continued efforts on the part of grassroots organizations to promote voluntary collaboration on health care data-sharing.
“In 2012, we saw private insurance companies such as Aetna and United dip their toes into The Blue Button movement, which allows users of personal health records to download their personal health records,” Thompson said. “With users in control of their own information, organizations such as Lybba.org and the Mayo Clinic’s data-sharing lab have been facilitating the voluntary participation of data sharing in order to better understand medical conditions, improve care, and promote innovation.”