Mobile tech reshaping the health sector

Your smartphone is not only your best friend, it’s also become your personal trainer, coach, medical lab and maybe even your doctor. “Digital health” has become a key focus for the technology industry, from modest startups’ focus on apps to the biggest companies in the sector seeking to find ways to address key issues of health and wellness. Apps that measure heart rate, blood pressure, glucose and other bodily functions are multiplying, while Google, Apple and Samsung have launched platforms that make it easier to integrate medical and health services. These companies are all cashing in on the smartphone addiction by helping users be more engaged in their own care. Recent studies suggest that people who use connected devices to monitor health and fitness often do a better job of managing and preventing health problems.

For the vast majority of things, you the patient are in charge and we are just the Sherpas.

Joseph Kvedar, a physician and founder of Center for Connected Health

Google is developing a smart contact lens that can help monitor diabetics and has set up a new company called Calico to focus on health and well-being, hinting at cooperation with rivals such as Apple. And IBM is using its Watson supercomputer for medical purposes including finding the right cancer treatment. An analysis by the global consultancy Deloitte suggests that smart glasses, fitness bands and watches, should sell about 10 million units in 2014, generating over US$3 billion and that the number of devices will hit 170 million by 2017.

We’ve gotten to a point where with sensors either in the phone or wearables gather information that we couldn’t do in the past without going to a medical centre.

Gerry Purdy, analyst at Compass Intelligence