I think there’s a major confusion in the current health app and device marketplace right now. The problem stems from consumers who draw conclusions even though claims aren’t really being made. I’ll use an example from my Healthcare Scene blog network.
I get asked all the time what I do for a job (like I’m sure most of you). I usually say that I’m a blogger and people then ask me what I blog about. I usually answer that I blog about healthcare IT. While people’s minds are blown by the fact that I’m a professional blogger, I can see in their eyes and often hear in their response that they didn’t really understand what it meant to blog about healthcare IT.
The most common interpretation is that I blog about health and wellness. I guess in some ways I tangentially blog about health and wellness, but no doubt in these people’s minds they’re picturing me writing about nutritional supplements, diet, fitness, and other health and wellness topics that they read in their magazines or favorite blogs online.
I never told them that I blogged about health and wellness, but they often interpret it that way since they don’t know the term healthcare IT to know what I really mean. When I try to clarify it for them, I often say that I write about how doctors use technology. That usually gets them closer.
I’ve found the same thing is happening with many consumer health devices. When you say that something is a consumer health devices they immediately draw their own conclusion that it must be a medical device that can be used by consumers. Unfortunately, the reality today is that consumer health devices are very different from medical devices.
As I’ve thought about the differences, I’ve come to realize that there’s one major difference that causes a lot of problems for those that misinterpret what they’re using. A medical device produces clinically relevant data that would be accepted and trusted by a medical professional. A consumer health device might or might not. We don’t know and therefore many medical professionals won’t use that data.
I don’t think it’s a problem that these consumer health devices don’t put out clinically relevant data. There seems to be a great business model for consumers to take a peak at their health data (regardless of how accurate it is). Plus, there are plenty of anecdotal stories about how this has helped individuals. That’s great.
The problem however comes in when we try to say that a consumer health device is something that it’s not. I think we’ll see this come into sharp focus over the next few years. Consumers will finally start to understand that not all devices are created equal. They’ll realize that some devices are clinically relevant (ie. their doctor will want and care about the data) and other devices are more for fun and intrigue than they are actually improving their health. Unfortunately, it’s just going to take us a while to get there.