Embracing HME's IT Future
HME will see tons of tech, and it's a good thing.
- By David Kopf
- Jun 01, 2016
The HME industry is starting
to experience the beginning what I and many believe
will be a coming revolution in healthcare technology:
the integration of personal technology with medical
equipment. Case in point are diabetes and sleep care.
Both venues already incorporate devices that track
patients’ conditions and therapy compliance, and use
the data recorded to improve results. I’m convinced
that will spread throughout HME.
What convinces me? The mass proliferation of
wearable devices and particularly wearable health
devices convinces me. A couple quick stats: The
market for wearable health devices will grow from $2
billion in 2014 to $41 billion in 2020 ( a compound
annual growth rate of 65 percent), according
to Soreon Research. Also, by 2018, IDC Health
Insights reports 70 percent of the worlds’ healthcare
organizations will invest in patient technology such as
apps, wearables and remote patient monitoring.
Addicted to Data
And I’m seeing this trend unfold in my personal
life. I might not look the part as much as I want to,
but I’m one of the millions of die-hard, try-hard
amateur athletes out there. I’m an avid road cyclist
and mountain biker, and I also enjoy standup
paddleboarding, and have started dabbling in some
weight lifting. And if there’s one thing that has really
revolutionized the way I enjoy those activities, it is the
growth and advancement in the tools that let me track
and improve my performance.
Those tools and my use of them have evolved over
time, and that evolution has paid dividends. Take
my cycling for example: I started out using a simple
bicycle computer that tracked my speed, mileage
and ride time via magnetic sensors on my forks and
spokes. I diligently recorded every ride in an Excel
spreadsheet, and watched as I slowly shaved time off
one route or another. While gratifying, it was still
pretty basic information.
Then I got a GPS-based bike computer with an
altimeter and a chest-strap heart rate monitor (HRM).
Now I was tracking additional statistics, such as heart
rate and cadence, as well as elevation gains. Moreover,
the device remembered my performance so that I
could race against virtual competitors, and ensure
that I was staying within target heart rate zones.
Better yet, I got to bid manual data entry farewell,
because now I could collect all the data from the
device with a simple USB synch to the computer.
Then Strava.com appeared. For those who have
never heard of it, Strava is the equivalent of online
crack cocaine for cycling, running and other
endurance sports statistics nerds, both pro athletes
and wannabes. The site leverages the power of social
media with fitness tracking to create a forum where
athletes can compete against one another, as well
as their own performance. Local cyclists or runners
track their performance using GPS devices or
smartphone apps, and designate “segments” on which
other athletes then compete to get the fastest time.
Moreover, users can join international challenges,
and premium memberships let users segment their
performance into age and weight classes. No matter
where you are, at this very moment your tallest local
hill or longest straightaway is experiencing a mini
Tour de France or Boston Marathon as local athletes
compete for bragging rights on a daily basis. Addictive
doesn’t begin to describe the experience.
But recently, the final piece in my fitness technology
puzzle fell into place: a waterproof GPS watch with
Bluetooth that works with my HRM. Now I can track
everything I do, sync it to my phone, and another app
takes that data and shares it with other apps, such as
Strava and MyFitnessPal. With a couple finger swipes I
can study a wealth of fitness information that helps me
improve toward my goals.
Sitting at Ground Zero
Patients are going to expect the exact same thing
from their DME. As more people track every calorie
they eat and every footstep they take, they are going
to want their healthcare equipment to offer the exact
same level of feedback. For instance, I see a not-far-off
future where oxygen patients will want to track their
oxygen therapy and ensure that they are doing well.
(And we’re starting to see that happen; read more in
“Oxygen Care’s Next Steps” from our March issue.)
Manufacturers will need to determine ways that they
deliver on those desires, and providers will need
to work with referral partners to create the kind of
practices that will ensure patients can use it.
The key is for providers to get behind the patient
data recording tend and p-u-s-h in the same way I
push myself up my local hills. Providers should work
with their clinical staff, referral partners and patients
to determine where they can track more data that can
be used to improve clinical outcomes, and then urge
their manufacturers to develop those capabilities.
Believe me, the DME/HME makers will respond to
market demands. The result will see HME providers
acting as experts at the nexus where care and data
merge, acting as much-needed product, technology
and care experts —
a bright future indeed.
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of HME Business.
David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.