Tag Archives: Healthcare

”I like your HIV status”

Today’s news in the health data business is that Facebook is planning to enter the game.

While monetizing health data by creating health apps and communities has proven difficult for insurance companies, it won’t be a walk in the park for the other players, either.

The insurance company needs a less intimidating intermediary to inspire consumers to share their health data. Candidates for such an intermediary include Apple, Google and Facebook.

Even these companies will need to work hard to dilute consumers’ fears of their data ending up in unwanted places, whether it’s through hackers, criminals, nation-state actors – or by new business models that Apple & co will come up with in order to monetize their customers’ health data.

We can already see these new business models emerging, for example through Mayo Clinic’s announcement of their app and Apple HealthKit sharing data between them.

One of the comments to the article about Facebook summarizes the privacy challenge brilliantly: ”I like your HIV status”.

Does the failure of Aetna’s CarePass platform mean Apple’s platform won’t succeed?

Aetna, the American insurance giant, recently announced the ramping down of CarePass, their digital health data platform. Some commentators speculate this could mean that Apple’s and others’ similar platforms are not viable.

I beg to disagree.

For those not familiar with Aetna’s initiative, CarePass is an app that integrates with a host of services collecting consumers’ health data, for example the data from their activity trackers and heart rate monitors.

Social media and health data go hand in hand

People love to share the details of their life, especially when they can brag about their accomplishments.

That’s a basic characteristic of social media and something that is easy to incorporate in a health data platform: ”Today I ran 10 kilometers and burned x calories”. It’s also easy to compete in sports with your friends in social media. And it’s easy to admire or ”like” their accomplishments.

In other words, a whole lot of positive vibes can be created within such a platform.

Aetna’s challenge is that they are an insurance company. And well, insurance companies are not usually associated with events that are fun, right? Besides, there’s always the suspicion that the insurance company might be taking advantage of the data you upload in an app.

Suspicion and fun don’t mix well.

Apple just seems to be a better match with the idea of fun and achievement. Plus you can feel even better about yourself showing off your Apple-designed activity tracker.

This is why Aetna’s decision to pull the plug off CarePass is no indication of Apple not making it. Quite the contrary, I’d say it rather proves that Apple is more likely to come out as a winner in the platform game than any insurance company.

All about wellbeing, design and fun

If Apple unveils the iWatch tomorrow, they are likely to emphasize anything but potentially sharing your health data with insurance companies at some point. It’ll rather be about wellbeing, design and fun.

The same will apply to the other contenders in the platform game. The fight for the most popular health data platform will be an interesting one to observe.

One day we might see Aetna and its competitors partnering with Apple and the likes, encouraging people to lead healthy lives and charging smaller premiums from those who excercise regularly.

Eagerly waiting for tomorrow’s event.

What business are heart rate monitor manufacturers in?

Answer: they are in the health data business.

A startup firm called PulseOn was featured in an article by the leading Finnish business magazine Talouselämä (in Finnish) about a week ago. The company has developed a heart rate monitor without chest belt. I love the invention because I hate to wear a chest belt while working out. 

The article also mentions a number of other Finnish startups that focus on measuring your body, and quite correctly states there’s some unique know-how in mobile and health related technologies in Finland. This is great but not good enough.

The story becomes more interesting when you consider that there’s also excellent competence in data analytics in Finland, and equally noteworthy competence in the healthcare and insurance businesses. 

These are some of the competences that PulseOn and their competitors, such as Polar and Suunto, will need to acquire through partnerships or by hiring new employees.

The reason is simple: the activity trackers and other devices measuring our body are only a small part of the healthcare and health insurance business ecosystem. The US alone is expected to spend 3 trillion dollars in healthcare this year, and the money spent is rising every year. 

Monetizing Data

The everyday health data collected from our bodies will have such a big impact on the society’s healthcare costs that the players controlling the flow and the use of that data will also come to control the activity tracker and heart rate monitor business.

The size of the business opportunity is enticing the big insurance companies into the game, as well as the heavyweights of consumer electronics and the leading companies specialized in analyzing and monetizing data. 

In the face of competition like this, companies like Jawbone, Fitbit, Garmin and their above mentioned Finnish competitors will suffer unless they manage to get well connected into the wider ecosystem and monetize the health data they gather.  

The CEO of the insurance company Aetna put it nicely by saying they are “no longer in the insurance business, but in the information business instead”.

No Competitive Advantage from Technology Alone

A heart rate monitor is hardly such a complex device that any manufacturer would be able to create a sustainable competitive advantage through its technology alone. 

For instance, the July issue of Scientific American shows off filmlike patches of “electronic skin” containing electronic components capable of measuring the body’s motion when integrated with an accelerometer.

I’d expect this is only one of the technological innovations we’ll see becoming commoditized in the health business as time passes.

Enter Incentives by Insurance Companies

The ever-increasing capabilities of gathering quantified-self data will have a tremendous impact on preventing and treating deseases. I’d assume that pretty soon this kind of everyday health data will be gathered from most of us. We already have insurance companies giving people incentives in exchange for their body measurement data. 

An American friend of mine already gets money off his automobile insurance because he’s agreed to have the insurance company install a device into his car monitoring the way he drives.

From the point of view of the insurance company’s business, a device measuring the human body is no different from the device in the car.