Smartphones, Tablets Empowering Consumer Health Care Technology in 2011

Consumers are turning to smartphones and tablets PC to help them monitor their health. This is also leading to the consumerization of health care technology.

Consumers are increasingly using smartphone and tablet PCs, such as the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, to monitor their own health. This, according to a Dec. 6 report from research firm Ovum, is leading to the consumerization of health care technology.

The report "2011 Trends to Watch: Health Care Technology" discusses how consumer health devices will increasingly appear in the consumer market. Ovum is a division of research firm Datamonitor.

"We expect consumers to turn to their smartphone or tablet computer for health care advice and preventative care more and more," Cornelia Wels-Maug, Ovum senior analyst and author of the report, wrote in a statement.

Tablets were also recently named among the top health care sector purchases by nonprofit IT trade association CompTIA.

"The latest technology can play a key role and aid this shift towards the consumerization of health care," Wels-Maug added. "For example smartphone applications can advise on ways to lead a healthy lifestyle, helping consumers to avoid illness in the first place. Against a backdrop of increasing life expectancy, consumers are taking more responsibility for safeguarding their long-term quality of life and ensuring they continue to be healthy well into the future."

In 2011, Best Buy will sell wireless health devices in half of its stores, according to Ovum.

"Other retailers are sure to follow this example, and we expect a stronger uptake of medical devices aimed at the consumer during 2011," wrote Wels-Maug. "We expect uptake to [be] stronger in the U.S., where retailers are ahead of their European counterparts in exploring this opportunity."

In its report, Ovum also forecasts strong implementation for electronic health records (EHR) by medical professionals for the coming year.

Patients may also increase their use of personal health records (PHRs) if they can access them on a smartphone or tablet PC, according to the report.

Consumer health devices allow consumers to transfer their health information to and from Web portals such as Microsoft HealthVault, Wels-Maug noted. People will then be able to share the data with medical professionals, who can monitor the data remotely.

The firm also says IT firms are adopting health care technology that will help reduce the costs of care.

"Governments are trying to remedy the enormous cost pressure by launching initiatives to adopt the deployment of IT in order to enable more cost-efficient health care provision that is also geared to yield better patient outcomes," the Ovum brief states.

As consumer medical devices head to the home market, research indicates consumers are ready to embrace health care technology.

A survey conducted by GFK Roper and commissioned by EHR provider Practice Fusion reveals that 62 percent of respondents with a chronic condition believed a home medical device would help them improve their health.

Meanwhile, up to 57 percent of respondents between ages 25 and 49 expressed interest in using home medical devices.

"Home medical devices can save the health care system money and also enable patients to live more independently while managing their chronic conditions," Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, said in a statement.

In addition to smartphones and tablets, consumer health care devices include Bluetooth weight-monitoring scales and glucometers to record glucose levels of diabetics.

Mood trackers also exist to help bipolar and depression patients manage their medications, according to Practice Fusion.

The Defense Department recently unveiled an Android version for the military called the T2 Mood Tracker.