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What Is Connected Health?

Connected HealthHistorically, health care has been disconnected, or as Susmit Pal, Healthcare Strategist at Dell EMC, describes it, “… episodic in nature, with clinicians making decisions without seeing a comprehensive picture of the patient.” The goal of connected health then is to help health care professionals see a more complete view of the patient, not just when they are in need of treatment.

What Is a Connected Health Device?

When consumers and medical professionals speak of connected health devices, they could very easily be talking about two entirely different things. Commonly, consumers may refer to wearables as connected health devices. These devices can include activity trackers, sleep monitors, heart-rate monitors, GPS connected sneakers and much, much more. Clinicians are quick to point out the vast majority of these devices don’t offer any actionable insights for medical purposes. After all, how precise of a picture can a $49 sensor paint of a patient’s life? Manufacturers of these consumer-grade devices focused on building technology people would use for social interactions and gamification, while making a conscious decision to stay away from producing medical-grade devices, which would invite FDA scrutiny and regulation, but could be useful to doctors.

To medical professionals, connected health is about technologies and processes that improve their ability to use a broad range of data to support health and medical decision making. This can include electronic medical records, which enable better care coordination between providers, or video conferencing solutions to enable communication with patients between visits, or home medical sensors so blood pressure and other vitals can be monitored remotely. While this aspect of connected health might receive less media attention, consumer adoption will be strong. One estimate from HIMSS sees telehealth services ballooning from less than 350,000 patients in 2013 to more than 7 million by 2018.

Many in the health care field are excited about the potential connected health holds for improving patient outcomes. Dr. Barbara K. Rimer writes on Cancer.gov:

Technology and connectivity have dramatically altered the health landscape in ways we could not have imagined even several years ago. They have transformed many of our lives, helping us to monitor workouts and diets, track medications, and interact with friends and families. They also have transformed the way we collect and access health information, communicate about our health, and use data to support decision-making.

As the health care system struggles to adapt to meet the needs of an aging population, technology will play a crucial role ensuring all have access to the quality health care they deserve.