The phrase “disruptive technology” has been on my mind lately. I’ve seen it used online quite often, and heard it more than a few times at HIMSS. US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park echoed the sentiment at the recent Healthcare Experience Design conference, when he talked about the potential innovative technologies have to transform healthcare.
The idea behind it was really brought home to me during Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo’s recent keynote at the Georgia Technology Summit. He spent most of his time talking about the top household tech companies – Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, specifically focusing on how their technologies are now not only taken for granted by most of their consumers, but have created an ecosystem of trickle-down technologies that are slowly beginning to invade other verticals.
Manjoo made the point that these companies were once disruptive innovators – meaning they were small, agile, and smart enough to release products and services that everyone else thought was a little crazy or, at the very least, non-essential, but that have evolved into commodity products and services we can’t live without. He mentioned the advent of the iPod as one example; even the original Kindle could fit into this category. He made everyone laugh when he showed a screenshot of what Amazon.com looked like back in the day. (I think it was from 1994, but don’t hold me to that.) Needless to say, it was primitive.
Of course we all know how the iPod has turned into the iPhone, which has shot off into the direction of a tablet; and how the Kindle has gone 2.0 and turned into the Kindle Fire. His presentation made me wonder, what sort of “crazy” product in healthcare will we all not be able to live without in a few years’ time? What seems completely superfluous, even extravagant, now, that has the potential to be quickly scaled up and adopted by the masses in just a few years time?
I’m leaning towards products like the Fitbit, and other biometric monitoring devices, or perhaps smart phones with these tools built in. I see people with iPods and iPhones strapped to their arms all the time at the gym. What’s to keep them from strapping on a similar device – one that has the potential to better their health? Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, even mentioned in his HIMSS12 keynote that consumer-facing mobile health products like the Fitbit, or any other device that can monitor a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, weight, calories burned, etc., will soon be very commonplace. I think he said something to the effect that he can easily envision a time when it will be odd for people not to know all of these statistics about themselves at any given moment of the day. I believe a term has been coined for this – the art (or the science) of the quantified self.
Quantified self technology companies like BodyMedia and Fitbit are quietly taking the consumer health app world by storm. According to a recent Pittsburgh Business Times article, BodyMedia “makes software and wearable devices that monitor a person’s activity, calories and sleep. Its technology was featured on NBC’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ and it recently struck a partnership with fitness expert and former ‘Biggest Loser’ trainer Jillian Michaels. Its impending round of multi-million dollar financing leads me to wonder about its plans to penetrate the mass market even more.
As the industry moves towards more accountable care, it seems like these sorts of devices may have a big part to play in moving our country’s health forward in terms of awareness, prevention and motivation.
What products or services do you see being disruptive innovators in healthcare? What type of healthcare technology do you envision not being able to live without three to five years down the road? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Jennifer Dennard is Social Marketing Director for Atlanta-based Billian’s HealthDATA, Porter Research and HITR.com.