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Ian McKenna: Is wearable tech the future of healthcare?


Jay Sales, innovation strategist at VSP Global provided The Platforum’s Top Gear III audience with a fascinating insight into the future trends we can expect as mobile phones are increasingly superseded by wearable devices over the next few years.

Headsets such as Google Glass, smart watches and a range of other wearables open the door for an unparalleled level of biometric measurement. VSP has been working closely with Google to identify how Glass can be used to support eye health and insurance services as well as identifying the opportunities arising from other wearable devices.

Software running on wearables that will emerge over coming months will provide the capability to measure amongst other things body mass index, blood pressure, blood flow and blood oxygen levels, heart rate, hydration, respiration, and sleep patterns. This will create the ability to capture an unparalleled real-time picture of an individual’s health.

Sales highlighted the “connected generation” is now entering the workforce, having grown up with internet technology ever-present in their lives and with very different attitudes to their parents over the use of data.

Personal data is invaluable

He identified that individuals will increasingly see their personal data as a valuable asset and in future consumers will decide with whom they choose to share their personal data – and the value they expect to receive back from organisations will now be a consideration for sharing such information.

Rapid advances in neuroscience are also making it possible to measure brain activity using wearables. These technologies will also be able to monitor stress levels, identify the points during a typical week when an individual is under most stress and also the times when they make the best financial decisions. This will make it possible to understand when it is most effective to send prompts to take action on financial products which are most likely to stimulate a positive response.

With eye scanning technology already capable of providing advanced notification of a wide range of conditions including diabetes hypertension and high cholesterol the possibility of extending such analysis to include both the cardiovascular and nervous systems will provide an unprecedented level of understanding of an individual’s future health.

Dramatic effect

Such changes will inevitably have a dramatic effect on the financial planning process, as it becomes possible to predict when individuals will face significant changes in their health and fitness, with a consequent impact on their earning capacity. This raises the prospect of a person’s health actually becoming an asset class.

Jeremy Chadwick, VSP Visioncare managing director EMEA, then indicated the current practical application of such services in the modern workplace identifying how vision insurance as an employee benefit can deliver a 35 per cent improvement in staff productivity.  This translates to a very significant return on investment for employers.

The range of health testing that can now be achieved through retinal scanning means the eyes are quite literally the window on an individual’s overall health. The level of information that will be increasingly available from biometric devices combined with the ability to identify potential illnesses several years in advance, looks set to transform the business of life insurance into a service for health assurance. It would be easy to consider these changes as too far removed from the day-to-day process of life insurance to have a dramatic impact, however on the contrary they are likely to transform both the way life and health insurance are priced, underwritten and administered in just a few years.

In contrast to many other industries, the insurance and healthcare markets emerged from the 90s’ dotcom boom relatively unscathed. VSP’s demonstration identified why wearable devices and biometric scanning look certain to radically change both sectors in a period of time which most current players would consider inconceivable. While as in any other industry those who fail to adapt quickly enough face a bleak future, this creates enormous opportunities for new products and innovation that can bring enormous benefits to consumers.

Ian McKenna is director of the Finance & Technology Research Centre



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  1. Ian

    The US Space Programme spent six million dollars developing a ballpoint pen capable of writing in space …the Russian took a pencil.

    Simply buy a decent set of bathroom scales and reduce weight.

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