General Health Tuesday January 27, 2015

eHealth: How will it impact your daily life?

What is eHealth?

eHealth is a relatively new term used to define healthcare practices that take place with the help of electronic processes and communications. First used in the late 90s, eHealth usage has become increasingly common as access to online medias, platforms and devices has grown. Indeed, several events in the tech and health industries have acted as game changers, with ongoing smartphone competition between companies like Apple and Microsoft fuelling an exponential growth in online activity of all kinds. Including everything from fitness apps and online calorie counters, to online clinics and medical advice sites, eHealth is likely to continue its advances in line with increasing internet and tech accessibility.

How has it impacted our lives?

For many people, eHealth has had a positive impact on everyday life. Electronic medical services of all kinds have fed into a growing need for efficient information gathering, and many people make use of health apps and websites on a daily basis. On smartphones there are apps that help with fitness and food tracking, apps that provide information about health concerns or conditions, apps that guide the user through difficult subjects and a host of other useful services; and in tech too, there are various gadgets that regularly assist users in maintaining active and healthy lifestyles. Smartwatches now track stats and update with phones to provide up to date information, websites give advice on how to deal with conditions effectively without visiting the hospital or doctor, and every month new technology is created to track and interact with our bodies.

How many people use eHealth devices?

It’s difficult to track the number of eHealth users but is safe to assume that a huge number of people use them regularly without even thinking about it. If you have ever used a website or phone app to track calories, if you’ve ever used a smartwatch at the gym, if you’ve ever used an online medical advise website then you have, whether you’ve realised it or not, been an eHealth user.

Though it’s difficult to calculate specific numbers, there are some statistics that reflect the increasingly common use of eHealth technology. In 2013, the NPD Group found that Fitbits, Jawbone Ups, and Nike FuelBands accounted for 97% of a $330 million, smartphone-enabled activity tracker industry. In 2014 a survey by Harris Poll found that, of 2019 adults aged 18 and up, over 60% would be willing to participate in video visits with their doctor.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic comes from a place on the market that many people wouldn’t think to look for eHealth figures. In 2007 the Japanese gaming company, Nintendo released a game that was all about staying active and healthy. Wii Fit came with a balance board equipped with scales and could be used to measure weight, BMI and a few other factors. The game could then be used as a weight loss aid and tracker and combined fun activities with various health-related goals. Having sold in excess of 22 million copies, Wii Fit revolutionised the gaming industry and was a huge influence over the creation of Sony and Microsoft’s rival systems – PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect. Seven years after the release of Wii Fit and the gaming industry is full of games like Just Dance and Your Shape where the primary focus is to stay healthy, within the parameters of traditional gaming.

How does eHealth in the UK compare with other countries?

The NHS started implementing electronic medical records for the UK in the early 2000s with the idea being, in a format that is similar to what is now on offer in Estonia, that the whole health service could be streamlined so that medical attention could be offered – via e-communication and internet databases – at any location within the UK. In Estonia now, for example, there is a system in place that allows Estonian citizens to retrieve prescription medication from any registered pharmacy in the country thanks to an online database that works by using unique identification numbers.

Of course there are always going to be issues when encountering new technologies and new ways of doing things, and several agencies have voiced their concern and asked that there be guidelines and laws that govern the rise in eHealth. In the US for example, the FDA has made a decision to monitor all devices that claim to aid in fitness, and in the UK there are regulations that control the online prescription of medication to the same extent that it is regulated in the traditional, doctor visit equivalent.

Where it will go in the future?

We are fast approaching a time where technology is integrated seamlessly into your life; universal access and ubiquitous Internet technology means that we are now in a place where e-communication and effective, instant information is available to almost everyone in the western world, and technology is not going to stop growing.

eHealth is growing and it is likely to become an increasingly important part of the medical sector across the globe. Interfacing with health technology – whether it be fitness tech like the Fitbit health tracker or consultation sites like HealthExpress – is likely to become a normal part of everyday healthcare. Even looking back over the past years at things like Bird and Swine Flu hints at the potential usefulness of e-communication in medical care – when doctors and the NHS were asking people to stay at home and out of medical centers, they directed patients to their online advice portals to provide a safe level of medical care without risking further spreading of the illness. Indeed, Hamadan Touré, International Telecommunications Union secretary general observed that with “the world’s population recently hitting the seven billion mark, digital systems are not just vital but inevitable for managing health. Information and communications technology will play a key role in delivering health care in the future – that’s true in developing and in developed countries.”

And, as demonstrated in our video, the Internet of Things (IOT) is likely to play a major role in revolutionising healthcare. It might seem far-fetched, but many technologies already exist that effortlessly interact with an almost endless stream of data. Facebook, Twitter and the fitness apps already mentioned - all of these technologies tap into Internet technology that, in turn and through various methods and channels, can offer communication between people and servers the world over.

So with the world quickly coming together as one global community, and with technology fast approaching the kind of thing we all remember from sci-fi films 20 years ago, how do you think eHealth will affect your life in the future?

How will eHealth impact the future? We asked eight leading experts in the health, technology and digital industry to share their views.

Fard Jonmar

The video gives a glimpse of the impact e-health may have in the future. Do you think this vision is realistic and why?

Yes, this vision is a very realistic depiction of how e-health technologies will be integrated into our daily lives. In fact, the technologies outlined in the video will be with us long before 2025 — many of them are already here!

The video nicely illustrates how a combination of data and wearables — specifically those with sensors embedded in clothing — can be utilized to constantly measure our well-being and proactively provide insights designed not only to inform, but also persuade. Specifically:

  • Sensors, or devices can be used to monitor physical parameters such as blood pressure, heart rate, weight loss, and diet — from inside and outside the body
  • Data can be collected and analysed by powerful computers with the ability to predict our health and guide us toward choices that will benefit us in the short- and long-term
  • Our everyday clothing will become wearable devices and have sensors woven into them that provide a constant stream of data about our bodies and activities

Again, these technologies and capabilities are not the stuff of far-future science fiction, but present day science fact. Data, sensors and wearables are currently being used in a variety of ways to shape and inform health. People may not be aware of just how fast technology is advancing because many of these tools are being used behind the scenes or have been only recently introduced.

Where do you see e-health in the future?

For much of the short history of e-health, people have been very much focused on specific, individual devices such as mobile phones, video, wearables (like Google Glass) and the Web.

In the immediate future, we’re going to see a couple of major shifts in how people think about and deploy e-health solutions. This will happen because of two important, but little-known megatrends I call context and convergence. In fact, your video nicely illustrates how these megatrends will play out.

  • Context is all about ensuring that e-health tools are embedded — in invisible and seamless ways —- into our lives. The point is to ensure that technology compliments and supports people’s lifestyles rather than forcing them to adopt unfamiliar technologies or change their behaviour just to use an e-health tool. We saw context at work in Julie’s story when technology supported her efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle while she was naturally engaged in various activities such as ordering lunch.
  • Convergence is about using e-health technologies, such as Big Data and wearables, in a complimentary fashion that improves their ability to provide useful information and guide users to engage in more healthy activities. In Julie’s story, we saw how technologies (sensors, wearables and data analytics tools) converged into a technology that helped her optimize her workout and prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

Overall, startups, wellness companies, government agencies and others are looking carefully at how they can develop complimentary technology solutions that can be naturally and contextually integrated into the lives of patients, GPs, caregivers and others.

What health app or gadget would you like to see on the market by 2025?

By 2025, I’d like to see the widespread adoption of apps, technologies and devices that are combined into powerful solutions. They should be easy to use and highly relevant to people’s health and medical wants, desires and aspirations.

Most importantly, I’d like these technologies to have the proven ability to make people healthier, happier and longer-lived.

Chris Schelzi

Where do you see e-health in the future?

In general, e-health in the future is going to be more customizable and concierge-like. There are going to be insurance companies that use wearable devices to track your physical exertion throughout the day and use that data to inflate or discount your rate. Same with your diet and other lifestyle factors. There will be apps that allow you to choose a doctor of any specialty and consult with them immediately and get personalized, individual healthcare. You will no longer have to wait in a waiting-room just for a 5 minute conversation with your doctor. Crowdsourced healthcare is a current trend that is going to grow bigger and bigger. There will be a mass dissemination of health information that takes data from millions of people and analyses trends and treatments for various diseases. Healthcare is going to continue shifting from treatment to prevention using methods of predicative analysis based on user-data from wearable technology.

What health app or gadget would you like to see on the market by 2025?

This is my favorite question. And for years I've had the same answer: What I want to see, personally, is an embeddable device that continuously monitors ever trackable biomarker of health and disease and update instantly and automatically. This device would track everything from hormone levels, micronutrients, cholesterol, cardiac indicators, stress measurements, etc. Then, using these hundred or thousands of data points, cross-references with other user-data, it would give you a total breakdown on your health. You'd see how you compare in your demographic, and then receive specific, actionable steps on how to adjust your lifestyle to improve your health from a holistic perspective.

With a device like this, the entire medical and nutritional community would be flipped on it's head. Instead of getting an annual check-up with a substandard panel of biomarkers, or recommendations based on decade-old research, you would be getting instantaneous updates on your health every second!

No longer would people have to wonder if a diet, or medication, or supplement, or workout, or even a relationship (based on stress factors) was healthy for them. The answer would be clear. People would finally have the data, and an interpretation of that data, to give them insights into these previously uncharted territories of human health and performance.

The debates that have been going on for decades about 'a healthy diet' would finally be put to rest. People could watch ever biomarker of health changed in response to a new diet and see for themselves, personally, if Diet A is better than Diet B.

Dr Hilary Jones

Is this a realistic vision and why?

The video shows a young woman walking around her kitchen at the beginning of the day. It is no surprise to see her using her mobile phone which she uses very much as a personal assistant. I think it is totally realistic for the video to suggest that she will become more reliant on her electronic device to monitor her health in the future. Already we see people using IT to self-diagnose and to obtain prescriptions. In a world where it is increasingly difficult to obtain doctor’s appointments and be seen in hospitals self-diagnosis will become more important. We see the young lady in question being reminded to take her contraceptive pill, to make an appointment with the doctor, to monitor her calorie intake and her activity levels and to increasingly take responsibility for her own psychological physical and social health. I think this is a natural extension of the current situation and is a realistic vision of EHealth in the future.

Where do I see EHealth in the future?

EHealth will play an increasingly important role in health information. There is a huge potential for people to carry their personal medical information with them on their devices at all times rather than having to rely on the NHS doctor keeping such records. A medical summary for everybody would be exceedingly helpful including such information as vaccination status and previous operations or allergies and whether the patient is seen by Dr in an emergency that information would be immediately available. When planning a holiday to an exotic destination the device could help to determine which immunisations prior to travel are necessary and what sort of travel kits to pack. The electronic device could keep abreast of medical News worldwide and advise patients as to how to avoid infectious diseases such as epidemic flu or even Ebola. It will educate inform and reassure. It could possibly become the first line in medical diagnosis and the first line in therapy.

What Health app or gadget would I most like to see on the market by 2025?

I would love to see a mobile phone or electronic device that has diagnostic capability. Imagine a device which incorporates the technology currently seen in diabetic blood sugar monitoring meters for example but which could also check blood cholesterol, signs of kidney or liver disorders, blood pressure and any signs of thyroid disorder or anaemia. All that would be required would be a fingerpicking lancet and an attachment to the phone. The device might also be able to analyse the genetic profile of the owner and indicate what kind of lifestyle they should lead in order to prevent future disease. This little gizmo would be the modern day equivalent to the device that Dr Spock used in Star Trek to diagnose and even revive his ailing patients.

BBC Focus

The video gives a glimpse of the impact e-health may have in the future. Do you think this vision is realistic and why?

First of all I really liked the video and could definitely see this being the norm in the near future. It’s convenient and doesn’t mean you have to alter your day but gives you the option to make changes as and when you want to.

Where do you see e-health in the future?

Being a virtual hands on health support platform for people with busy lives

What health app or gadget would you like to see on the market by 2025?

Ones that are similar to the video and give you personal updates in real time, tailored to you.

George Mikaberydze

How do you think e-health will impact our future?

"The future of health is in the development of sensors and in-body sensors that will continually monitor health parameters. This will significantly influence e-health due to the amount of data that will be generated. This data will go directly to doctors and hospitals, forcing the development of programs and devices that will collect, transfer, and analyze this information. It will also be the time when a lot of predictive and analytical tools for health monitoring will be developed."

Bojan Bostjancic

How do you think e-health/mobile health will impact our future?

I believe that the smartphone will be the unified tool for monitoring and taking care for the health and livelihood of every human being in the future. In fact, the tools on the smartphone might very well become the single point of entry to revolutionize the current health care system and completely integrate patients, doctors, hospitals, payers and the health community.

What (app, gadget or changes) would you like to see appearing by 2025?

I would like to see "unseeable" devices embedded into the fabric of our every day life. Implanted in human body or in clothes and interacting seamlessly with IOT.

What app do you imagine for Azumio in 2025?

Very simple app, kind of Siri for Health. Your best health and fitness coach that you could ask anything or let her giving you an advice. Ultimate app with complex AI on the backend and simple voice user interface. Our Argus app on iOS (coming soon to Android) is a first step in this direction, that will only get simpler in the future. Less is more.

Fabrice Nabet

Do you think the video is realistic?

Yes, the video is realistic on the tech point of view but unrealistic on a social point of view. I truly believe that “intrusive” systems like the ones showed on the video will never be adopted by “ordinary people” or won’t be used after 3 months of use. I’ve also noticed something that’s worrying me in the video, the system prohibits Julie to eat a croissant in the morning! I think that’s awful! Will we have lost our free will by 2025? I think we should really emphasis on this.

How do you think e-health will impact our future?

I think e-health will have aand has an important role, especially regarding disease prevention and patient guidance. I also think that medicine will evolve a lot with new technologies however it’s the patient who will initiate the movement.

What (app, gadget or changes) would you like to see appearing by 2025?

1) Tools to strengthen the relation doctor/patient
2) Solutions and systems that are not intrusives
3) Technology to better the professional practice of medicine
4) The use of Big Datas in a research context (as opposition to a more commercial context)

Madhu Desbois

Do you think the video is realistic ?

Yes, I think this video is realistic even though it can seem a bit abstract for us today. However, connected products are very popular nowadays : sclaes, bracelets, or smartphones. All the data are gathered. What we need to develop now is the mean to read all this data in a « smart » way. That is to say, if those data could be properly read I think they would be very interesting for each and everyone of us.

How do you think e-health will impact our future ?

Nowadays and especially in France we don’t listen enough to our body. We are waiting to be sick to take care of ourselves. This is very intrusive for our bodies. We are overwhelming our body with medicines and treatments that make it weaker on the long run.

What would you like to see changing by 2025 ?

In 2025 I like the idea what the relationship doctor – patient will be strenghen thanks to the ability to communicate in new and better ways (e-health). We would be able to provide home consultations through smartphones very easily.

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