The use of technology in monitoring our day-to-day general health is already well established. How many people do you know who have a fitness app on their phone or a wearable device on their wrist, which enables them to log workouts, count calories, track steps or even monitor sleep patterns?
However, the integration of technology is gradually moving beyond simple measuring devices and beginning to blur the traditional boundaries surrounding health care.
Take technology firm Uber, known widely for its mobile taxi app, which has for the last two years offered a free flu shot service to select US cities through its UberHealth programme. The service is offered on selected days and enables users, via their Uber app, to request a visit from a registered nurse to administer the flu vaccine (and take care of all the paperwork). In the UK, Uber is also linking up with the health-care start-up Cera to help NHS patients receive timely care at home.
Uber is not alone in blurring accepted boundaries and finding novel ways to deliver health care to consumers; retail, media and technology company Amazon is now becoming a medical innovator too.
Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated interface, can check the weather forecast, order products online, turn the central heating up, and could now be your virtual doctor.
In partnership with US wellness firm HealthTap, Amazon’s Alexa is able to provide users with personalised, doctor-recommended answers to health-related questions. Just tell Alexa your symptoms, answer her questions and she will use HealthTap’s ‘Dr A.I.’ database to suggest likely conditions, helping users find the most appropriate care at the right time.
This is all part of a major trend which we have highlighted previously here on the blog: the gradual consumerisation of health care. This increasingly consumer-focused, highly accessible style of health-care delivery – the ability to receive an on-demand flu shot in your own home for example – will gradually increase choice and enable patients, as health-care consumers, to access suitable care at the right time and at the most appropriate cost. We expect this trend to continue to evolve and, like an enthusiastic Fitbit user checking their daily steps, we’ll be tracking the progress that is being made.