Consumers today are more demanding than ever before. Not only do they want to be in control, they want options tailored specifically to their needs. And in most arenas they get what they want: their shoes, fitness regimes, banking solutions and even their burgers are made just for them. But the health industry has lagged, until now.
Thanks to a focus on personalized data, real-time information and blockchain technology; healthcare is finally getting a reboot. And the implications are significant. Not only is it better for patient outcomes, it democratizes health and creates greater efficiencies and scalability. Here are some of the trends we can expect to see.
Bowhead Health, named after the longest living mammal (the Bowhead whale), is a healthcare startup on a mission to remove the pain points and inefficiencies of health management. They believe that when you empower patients to manage their own health, health outcomes improve. Their device, smaller than a food processor, is capable of reading your biometric data in real-time. Through a blood-prick test or saliva, users submit a small sample into the machine. This then gets sent to doctors who can instantly detect any key deficiencies. Based on this data, the machine dispenses a vitamin-based pill, just for you.
Anything made specifically for you is likely to increase adherence and thus help prevent problems arising in the future. And as most medical scholars will agree, preventative medicine is more effective than treating a problem. In another example, Habit is a food-tech business that uses biometric testing to recommend personalized eating plans and then sends the meals to your door. The business is based on a similar insight: personalization heightens compliance and betters health outcomes.
Blockchain technology powers Bowhead Health, Pokitdok, MedRec, Gem and is the technology of choice for most new healthcare startups. The real benefit of this technology is that no data is ever lost. Your health records are secured on a ledger, that you, the patient, gets to control. You can share the data as needed, and know it will never be hacked and the data will be kept even if you move countries, or switch doctors.
Medical testing is a huge industry. Seventy-five percent of clinical trials are funded by private pharmaceutical companies, with spending in excess of $63 billion a year. And it’s a growing industry. Recruiting patients for medical trials is a tricky and expensive business. But there are clever solves that healthcare startups are identifying. Bowhead Health is offering patients the chance to share their anonymized data with healthcare companies and get paid for it. Patients can opt in and opt out, as they see fit. This lucrative arrangement allows the patient to receive money that can then subsidize the drugs they need. As there is no middleman arranging the clinical trials, the patient incentives are generous. This trend has been burgeoining in other arenas too. For example, the startup InfoScout allows consumers to sell information about their shopping habits to larger companies. They are in control of their information and data, at all times; and can benefit financially from it.
This is a key trend in healthcare and one that technology is ripe to solve. There are apps like First Derm, which allows you to upload any rash and get an instant diagnosis for just $29. Or doctor hailing apps like Pager or Doctor on Demand that allow you to book an appointment with a physician, take the appointment over the phone and then collect the medicine from your local pharmacy - all for a cheaper price than a regular consultation. Or Bowhead who plan to tackle life-threatening diseases and dispense critical medicines. For example, imagine someone in Nigeria felt ill on his way to work and could stop by a Bowhead kiosk and submit a blood sample. Automatically, it could detect the presence of malaria and dispense medicine needed to relieve symptoms. Healthcare tech that eliminates the need for physical presence and can leverage shared data will drastically reduce the costs, thus making healthcare more available to more people.
It’s early days for Bowhead Health (they’re currently raising a round through Blockchain technology); there are still legislative hurdles to overcome, and FDA approvals to secure, and many are skeptical of what empowering patients can do. For example, at a recent salon on the future of health, Dr. Lindsay Wu asserted his view that at-home diagnostic tools will spur a culture of hypochondriacs and create unnecessary stress in patients lives. Though it's too early to judge its effectiveness and adoption, at-home diagnostics truly are an innovative step forward. By putting patients at the heart of their business; affording them both control and personalized solutions; startups like Bowhead Health are likely to see patients take a more active interest in managing their own healthcare. And that seems like positive progress.