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Wearables transform health care

Fitness trackers and smartwatches are gaining in popularity. Connected health holds great opportunity for health insurers, doctors and patients, and is turning our health data into a 'currency'.

17 Mar. 2016
Health - 1

Fitness watches that can count a user's paces and calculate how far he or she walked that day have already been available for a while. Now a new wearable category is capturing attention in the market: the smartwatch. What both product groups share is that they help users learn more about themselves and their body.

"Wellness and fitness are clearly driving the wearables category. And we also observe that people are prepared to pay a higher price for these products," explained Mirko Kisser, CEO of celloon GmbH, on Wednesday afternoon during a speech at CeBIT. "At the same time people are becoming more self-sufficient: they have a greater desire to control things themselves, without being dependent on the state health system."

Sensors and interfaces are decisive

Currently, most fitness trackers and smartwatches need to be connected to a smartphone - for good reason. "Smartphones have interfaces like LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC; they have all kinds of sensors as well as the computing power that's necessary to process all the data in real time and transfer it to the cloud," explained Kisser. But that's about to change. "Wearables are becoming more autonomous and no longer require the connectivity from a smartphone."

Celloon's CEO has also noticed greater differentiation in the market. For example, it is meanwhile possible for users to monitor their weight, blood pressure and even their body temperature and to document the history of such data in the cloud. Other applications are expected to follow soon - including the first implants. But the question still remains: what happens to all my data?

Health data: the new currency

Health care professionals view the constant availability of health data as a huge opportunity. "For researchers, it's like a permanent study," stresses Kisser. Never before has so much medical data been available. Health insurers hope to use this data to improve therapies and reduce the related costs. In the digital age, a patient’s health data is turning into a currency.

However, in Germany it will be difficult to introduce this new modus operandi. The hurdles are very high: Germany not only has strict data protection rules but also a complex healthcare market. Moreover, the existence of numerous regulations will make it hard to introduce a system in which personal health data is analyzed. And users themselves are highly skeptical. According to a recent study, while many Germans are familiar with wearables, they don't use them. In short, self-sufficiency in the digital age also means making the final decision about how one's data.