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Harnessing the Internet of Healthy Things

Guest Blog By: Dr. Joe Kvedar

Harnessing the Internet of Healthy Things Today, everything and everyone is connected. Experts predict that by 2020, 26 billion everyday objects will be able to capture, receive and share data via a vast, interconnected global network linked together by inexpensive sensors, GPS and the cloud. Soon, real-time biometric data will be automatically captured and used to learn more about the impact of lifestyle on disease and wellness, and ultimately change behavior for the better.

In what I'm calling the Internet of Healthy Things, or IoHT, virtually any object -- a watch, a shirt, the steering wheel of your car or the mattress you sleep on -- can be transformed into a data-collecting object that can be used to improve your health. In a new book we published last fall, The Internet of Healthy Things, I took the lessons learned at Partners Connected Health over the past 20 years and brought them into focus, providing guidance on the investments, business strategies and technologies necessary to improve health and wellness, and enable those of us working to develop the right devices, technologies and programs to successfully harness the power of the IoHT.

But devices and apps are just a small piece of the connected health market. Personal tracking data contains a treasure trove of information about how people live, work, play and even think, which sheds a great deal of light on their lifestyle, including their habits and preferences. It is also an incredible resource for businesses, insurers, healthcare providers and entrepreneurs who need to better understand what motivates the health consumer.

The business of healthcare is also changing dramatically, with providers taking on risk for population-level care and consumers buying insurance on exchanges and paying a much larger part of their bills. And all of this medical information is available to patients on the Internet, creating a more aware and demanding healthcare consumer. The disease burden is changing, too, with the ever-growing specter of lifestyle-related, chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity. Healthcare delivery also needs to change, becoming more efficient and more patient-centric.

These growing healthcare challenges are well-suited for connected health solutions, and create a huge opportunity for businesses that produce the goods and services that can move health and wellness into the everyday lives of consumers and improve clinical outcomes. But where, specifically are those opportunities? We are at a critical inflection point with health apps and devices. We must track and achieve sustained engagement with these tools in order to make a difference. The ability to capture data and feed it back to patients or consumers -- called a feedback loop -- can help create awareness but will not maintain behavior change in order to improve health or wellness. Health-tech developers need to do more than just spit back data to create a consumer health experience that is as compelling, sticky and, yes, as addictive as a smartphone.

We've learned that what ultimately works is simple design combined with the right, highly personalized motivational strategies that resonate with each individual at the right moment, just when he or she needs it. From our research, we've developed three basic strategies, and three tactics, that we believe will not just connect people to their data, but also connect them to their health on a deeper level. These strategies will help to create products that engage enough with consumers to help them craft health goals that are relevant to their life and create a highly personalized experience and ecosystem to keep people on track. And, by applying these tactics in product design, we can deliver very compelling messaging, sustain engagement and deliver powerful motivators to make health and wellness a part of our everyday lives.