Forrester analyst Elizabeth Boehm just wrote last week about the Fifth Annual Healthcare Unbound Conference — her conclusion, that attendees are frustrated at the lack of market uptake on all of these cool new products, among them wearable diagnostic offerings (CardioNet). Her conclusion — the market for technology in, on, and around the body — that is ‘healthcare unbound’, is lagging its predicted potential (2004) of reaching $5 billion by 2010 and $34 billion by 2015.
She blames the lag in use of monitoring and intervening technologies on a few factors, including a US consumer culture that is uninterested in prevention and personal responsibility; the health care industry structure that has no mechanism to reimburse for prevention, the broader economic downturn, and lack of awareness. In fact, she quantifies lack of awareness from Forrester data that shows that 60% of consumers have never heard of in-home electronic pill dispensers, and 53% have never heard of automated home monitoring, including motion detection, water usage or auto-appliance shutoff.
Her conclusion is that vendor strategists should market to employers (to help reduce employee absenteeism), cross-license their products, and work on interoperability standards (through the Continua Alliance).
We really need to wonder about how consumers are still so unaware. Could it be with all of the vendors combined, their marketing fails to reach a fragmented audience — health care providers, elders, their children, not to mention geriatric care managers and home designers. And yet during the nightly newscast, drug companies manage to use direct-to-consumer ads to reach a very broad and affluent population, even though those drugs all require prescriptions from doctors.
So call me crazy, maybe these new vendors and their funders should form alliances and/or shop the products to drug manufacturers. Maybe drug manufacturers would understand how to describe and package the offerings so that consumers would go straight to their doctors and ask for more information. And maybe drug manufacturers would be able to describe the benefits of these products as disease prevention and intervention. Hopefully soon, before the wave of baby boomers threatens to overwhelm the facilities available to take care of them once they’re frail and in need of help.