Who should be responsible for the implementation of health wearables?

By Catherine Sturman
Following on from the release of the first Bluetooth headset back in 2000, the growing interest of technology companies to deliver health wearables is n...

Following on from the release of the first Bluetooth headset back in 2000, the growing interest of technology companies to deliver health wearables is now clear to see.

The number of connected wearables worldwide has reached 325mn. Technology is rapidly transforming the healthcare industry, in alignment with growing consumer demands for increased awareness and control over their everyday management of their health.

From healthy eating to ramping up fitness levels, the use of Fitbits, smartwatches, activity trackers, and even smart shoes are revolutionising the way in which we live and work.

However, the rise of sedentary lifestyles in many countries has led to a substantial rise in health problems. From obesity, hypertension and diabetes, the Middle East is no exception. This has led to the growth of new products and services to cater to this essential market.

“Wearables will form part of our care mechanism. We have quite a deep educational programme for diabetes and for rehabilitation. I think some of these devices, for example, will play an important part in these areas,” explains Sanjay Shah, Executive Vice President at pioneering healthcare organisation, Fakeeh Care.

“The other opportunity is how these can be linked into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), and how this can be synchronised. Another aspect is how insurance companies are going to see the facilitation of these devices.”

However, convincing insurance companies to fund such technologies does not always come easily.

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“If we find that the community comes together and says, ‘look, this is a lifetime way of saving costs’, and the insurance companies will fund some of this, they will be readily implemented. If insurance companies are reluctant to fund this, it takes longer,” observes Shah.

“When introducing robotic surgery for the first time in the UK, we had countless battles with insurance companies to get it recognised. Insurance companies were asking for evidence, and we had to go to the US to find it.

“In the end, the insurance companies relented. Robotic surgeries are now available in a number of NHS sites and is also widely available in a number of hospitals in the private sector.”

It is clear to see that if a new tool has a payer, it becomes somewhat more straightforward to implement. However, if providers are to fund the technology, it is increasingly complex.  

“Insurance companies have a role to play in terms of seeing that this is beneficial and improvement and efficiency will come over time, as opposed to just right at the starting point. I'm looking forward to the new interest of major tech players who have something to contribute,” reflects Shah.

“I think the other thing is blockchain. Blockchain has potential in the pharma industry and how healthcare is managed. I suspect there will be a lot of potential tentacles out of blockchain technology which will come our way over the next 10 years or so. I'm quite excited by that.”


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