Three ways Technology and Data will Transform the Future of Self-care

Ian Marks
VP R&D Innovation

When it comes to better understanding our bodies, the proliferation of wearables, home diagnostic kits and app-based monitoring have given technology and data an increasingly important role in the healthcare category. This desire to track everything from hormones to allergy reactions to blood pressure is inspiring more consumers to seek out devices and services that allow them to take preventative measures towards improving their health and overall well-being.

As more individuals gain a tangible understanding of their bodies through data, we will begin to see healthcare shift towards an empowerment structure. One that provides consumers with better access to synthesized data with knowledge around the best treatment option or medicine specific to their needs.

While this emerging and disruptive field has yet to be completely defined, here are three ways that technology and data allow for a deeper understanding of the body and are already starting to transform the definition of self-care:

  • Insight into DNA will empower people to make long-term health decisions and could transform everyday lifestyle choices. Sequencing DNA used to require a multi-billion-dollar research effort, but today, companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA have turned it into an affordable and accessible process.

    23andMe recently launched an at-home diagnostic BRCA test that can detect an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer (the BRCA test is available as a part of 23andMe’s ‘Health & Ancestry’ testing for $199). While risk doesn’t equal diagnosis, equipped with this knowledge, 23andMe consumers are able to take proactive measures such as screenings to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

    When it comes to lifestyle choices, Helix is using DNA to enable smarter decision making around health, fitness, and nutrition. After taking a genetics test, customers learn how their individual DNA affects their body’s response to fitness and nutrition. Equipped with this knowledge, Helix offers meal planning, training services, and coaching tailored to the customer’s individual DNA.

  • Monitoring and home diagnostic technology will allow people to self-diagnose and take action quicker and could lead to personalized medication recommendations. At-home diagnostic tools and services are helping take the guesswork out of diagnosing common ailments such as the flu, sensitivities, and vitamin deficiencies.

    A useful example (especially during winter months) is the Kinsa QuickCare thermometer, which retails for as little as $20. This thermometer allows users to take a temperature, track results, and record symptoms. The accompanying app offers practical guidance on next steps based on age and temperature reading.

    Home diagnostic kits such as Everlywell and Thriva take self-monitoring a step further. Everlywell has a popular food sensitivity kit that monitors the body’s antibody response to over 90 foods, while Thriva offers a finger-prick blood test that creates a track record over indicators such as cholesterol, vitamin levels, and liver function.

    These self-diagnosing technologies not only increase self-awareness, they also enable consumers to diagnose correctly and understand which medications or supplements may be the best fit for their needs.

  • On-demand services will put medical providers within arms reach and could eventually become expected brand experiences. Apps and online services are making it possible to consult or summon a doctor in minutes.

    With a few taps of the Heal app, consumers can request a doctor in as little as two hours (8am-8pm, 7 days per week). No visit costs more than $99, the service is covered by most insurances, and the doctor spends an unhurried 30 minutes with each patient.

    For more flexible options, services such as RemedyPager, and Doctor On Demand provide video consultations, where patients use screen-based devices to speak with a nurse or doctor; often within minutes of the initial request.

    This expedited access to healthcare gives patients and their caretakers the opportunity to treat symptoms quickly and have peace of mind. Eventually, this could expand into brands offering these expert or medical services as an extension of their product lines.

With technology and data driving the future of self-care and preventative health, we will continue to see a shift towards consumer experiences that transcend traditional healthcare categories as well as allow for more specialization within each category (i.e. imagine receiving a customized allergy diagnosis versus a sleep treatment plan based on your DNA). This is a future that will require healthcare brands to use data, devices, and apps to personalize consumer experiences and solve for multiple healthcare related pain points all while offering a holistic brand experience. 

Today, we have only scratched the surface for how we can personalize healthcare experiences and segment products towards individual consumers. As preventative healthcare is increasingly driven by data, a larger conversation around self-care will begin to unfold.

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