Cutting Through The Clutter of Connected Health Innovation

I had the pleasure of speaking this last week at the Future Forward meeting in Wellesley.  This is one of a series of meetings that brings together the Boston innovation and entrepreneurial community to hear about trends and opportunities.  My talk was on how technology is maturing to achieve consumer engagement in health and resultant behavior change.

In preparation for the meeting, I reflected back on the days when my colleague Doug McClure, now CTO at Healthreageous, and I envisioned what would be needed to bring connected health mainstream.  One area that has been troublesome has been the ease with which we can extract data from various home-monitoring sensors (blood pressure cuffs, pedometers, glucometers and the like) and get it into the cloud for analysis and utility.  At this point a variety of strategies exist, from plugging a device into your computer (via USB port) to the wireless home hub, to embedded mobile chips in the sensors themselves.  This cacophony suggests an integration nightmare.  Long before we founded Healthrageous, Doug and I thought device connectivity would give us an edge.

Fast forward 5 years and its hard to find a sensor that does not have some sort of wireless connectivity.  Many of them have connectivity integrated through a smartphone or home hub directly to the company’s website.

Device connectivity has largely been conquered.  So is that the market?  Well, there are countless sensors that you can buy and easily start tracking your own physiologic info and learning from the experience.  It is this phenomenon that was the genesis of the Quantified Self movement, now with meet-ups in many cities world wide.  It seems like selling products to this burgeoning market of self-tracking zealots might make sense.

The challenge is, it appears to be about 10% of the population.  Lots and lots of devices chasing a small and finite population…..

Then there is the deluge of smartphone apps.  More than 10,000 of them last count.  So are apps the answer? Well not exactly. It seems that 26% of the time apps are opened zero or one time.  Further, 75% of the time folks stop opening them at about the 10th try.  That is kind of discouraging. It seems that apps alone are not the answer.

Maybe there is some way to marry these two concepts. We know that data=self entry is a particularly weak strategy as it is subject to social desirability bias as a confounder. We all want to look good and healthy so we’re prone to report those readings that support this and somehow not report those readings that do not.

Healthrageous has taken the path of focusing on dynamic personalization.  With all of the data being collected about you, they are able to craft a uniquely motivational program of messaging for you. And it’s working.  Their early results show positive improvement in both blood pressure and activity monitoring.

Likewise Runkeeper is doing some interesting integrations with devices as is Gravity Eight.

These are just a few of the companies that now take advantage of the near ubiquitous tracking data that can be derived from consumer-level sensors, but seek to surround those data with strategies to draw the consumer in and create the opportunity for sustained behavior change.

The tools are:  social networking, incentives, games/contests, and automated coaching.

So if you are in the business of recommending investments or partnerships in the rapidly changing/growing space of connected health, the data is coming in.

Companies that figure out how to present objective data to consumers in a compelling way, combined with motivational coaching, social networks and gaming will succeed. Not all of these tools will be necessary.  But the trick will be finding out which one suits each individual.  Those entrants that have a highly customizable platform and an ability to sense what you as the consumer will respond to, will be the winners.