Allianz Worldwide Care discusses the rise of connected health.
Enthusiasm for connected health is on the rise. A recent study by Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions found that 75% of the UK population uses health forums and websites. Evidence of the virtues of e-health in the treatment of medical conditions can be found in the monitoring of chronic diseases.
In the UK, 97% of patients currently using technology to manage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, one of the most widespread long term diseases, report high levels of satisfaction and feel an improvement in their life condition.
In France, more than 7 out of 10 people view e-health as an effective means for improving the healthcare system.
According to a worldwide McKinsey study in 2014, 70% of patients aged 18 to 65 are interested in the concept of digitally managing their health data, and 71% of consumers said that they like the idea of being able to quantify their lifestyle with a view to achieving a more balanced life.
There is certainly no shortage of options: more than one hundred thousand applications exist on the market today.
With the exponential growth of connected health products, several questions have been raised in relation to dependability. Specialists worry that the lack of precision in the microsensors made available to the general public could mislead patients.
In April 2013, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tested four skin cancer diagnostic applications, three of which missed a third of the melanomas which were presented to them.
Likewise, a study from the University of California at San Francisco's Human Performance Center showed that cardio training machines overestimated individual calorie burn by an average of 19%, as they do not sufficiently account for a person's age and weight.
Furthermore, doubts have also arisen regarding their use. According to a study by Endeavour Partners in the US, one third of American consumers that owned an activity tracker in 2014 had stopped using it within six months.
Nowadays, certain types of connected objects are called upon to revolutionise the healthcare system. These products must combine two conditions: they must be inserted in key moments for health, and must be integrated as part of overall services.
Generalisation on certain key points of health and personal safety is therefore necessary. According to a study by the European Commission, chronic diseases represent about 86% of all deaths in the EU. In France, these account for 70% of health expenditure. A
utomatic forwarding of patient health data from home to health professionals would make it possible to provide continuous and personalised follow-up.
It will become increasingly possible to monitor health data remotely and to help patients receive better care.
To limit interpretation errors that could lead to individuals trying to practice medicine on their own, the Israeli startup Telesofia proposes an automated video service, personalised according to the patient's age and demographics. Doctors on Telesofia use informal language to talk about chronic diseases, making it possible for internet users to easily understand and apply the advice provided.
In addition to homes, cars have become an ideal place to collect health data and impact individual well-being. The overall growth rate of registered vehicles relative to the world's population indicates that capturing medical data in vehicles could become fundamental. "Why not take advantage of the driving time for health monitoring, checking blood pressure, and sending this data directly to the treating physician?" says Sylvain Allano of PSA.
With longer periods of time spent behind the wheel being associated with a wide range of negative health effects, the healthcare industry can seize numerous business opportunities arising from the development of the connected car landscape.
In order to maximise the benefits, this patient data collection must be part of a larger ecosystem of services for health and well-being. Eric Sebban, director of the startup Visiomed, notes that "there's no point to a connected object without services".
Doctors, the central players of the service, are increasingly developing their practices by partnering with new operators giving them access to data which is useful for their diagnosis, or by using new measures which make it possible to develop a new relationship with their patients.
For example, the startup MesDocteurs proposes an application that enables users to contact a doctor at any time in order to receive health advice. The service can be partially automated, or processed by algorithms.
This innovation addresses the timing issue, since the doctors cannot receive, analyse and study their patient's data every day, as they do not have the time, whereas the demand is growing since 63% of French people that have seen their doctor six or more times in the past 12 months use the internet for searches about their health.
Allianz Worldwide Partners is strongly conscious of the huge potential of e-health. Dr. Matthias Kuss from the AWP team said "we believe in the value of apps, especially for speed and convenience. For example, a very limited set of data, e.g. identification and coordinates is all we need to provide patients with the help they need when in danger. A few answers to a structured set of questions is all we need to assess the urgency of a patient's health condition and to provide advice for what to do next. Yet in all these applications, we never take chances. All services are backed up by the human expertise required to guarantee the highest standards of care."
New potential from information and communication technologies and the Internet of Things will make it possible to save time in complex tasks and improve patients' awareness of their own good health, such as by medical data collection.
In the short term, these technologies will require integration into an overall offer of services, or the decision-making role of doctors and pharmacists.
To conclude, Dr Claire Power of Allianz Worldwide Care, the health specialists of Allianz Worldwide Partners, summarizes the phenomenon: "Many factors contribute to enabling a person to live a healthy life. Having easy access to information about healthy living enables us to engage with this information, take action and proactively improve our wellbeing".
With some concrete and short-term applications, the health objects seem to be an inspiring technology useful to improve the well-being of patients.
Alexis Obligi is chief sales and marketing officer at Allianz Worldwide Care.
 Connected health. How digital technology is transforming health and social care, Deloitte, 2015.
 Les Français face au tournant de la e-santé : 7 Français sur 10 la considèrent comme un moyen efficace pour améliorer le système de santé, Deloitte, 2016.
 Towards better prevention and management of chronic diseases, European Commission, 2016.
 Eurostat, OECD (International transport forum) and United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision.
 Ding D, Gebel K, Phongsavan P, Bauman AE, Merom D. Driving: A Road to Unhealthy Lifestyles and Poor Health Outcomes. Adams MA, ed. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(6):e94602. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094602.
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