Editor's Note

Embracing HME's IT Future

HME will see tons of tech, and it's a good thing.

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.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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