New technologies, by definition, disrupt the status quo, challenging our ideas about the accepted way of doing things. There will always be resistance to innovation, especially when procedures that were once restricted to a lab setting are handed over to consumers. When we think about the tools we have in our hands as consumers today, and the positive impact many of these technologies have on our lives, it’s surprising to learn that some people resisted these ideas when they first came out.
Critics tend to voice concern over the perceived inaccuracy and possible misinterpretation of information whenever new “real world” variables are introduced without the oversight of a trained professional. It’s true, trade offs can occur in exchange for the immediacy and availability of data. However, if that data could potentially save a life, it should not be withheld from consumers who are seeking to empower themselves.
There are countless examples of the consumerization of technology adoption — cell phones, personal computers, and automobiles, to name a few — but we’ve compiled a list of health-specific technologies that are now widely and safely used at home.
Glucose monitors enable patients to test their own blood for glucose, allowing them to regulate their blood sugar levels throughout the day. This technology took a decade to be widely accepted. The Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology in 2009 discussed this invention and its advances and concerns in a study titled: Glucose Meters: A Review of Technical Challenges to Obtaining Accurate Results
Pregnancy tests can now be taken in the comfort of your own home, but they used to be administered only by physicians. According to information from the National Institutes of Health Office of History, the test would take two hours and required eleven components to run properly. In 1978, an at-home test was released — it still took two hours, and the results were more accurate for positive reads than negative ones. Now pregnancy tests take only a few minutes, and they’re one of the most widely-used at-home health tests available. According to an article by the New York Times, when they first came out, many warned against their use for consumers, for fear that consumers couldn’t be trusted to evaluate the results and manage the information they received.
Physicians used to record the electrical activity of the heart exclusively through instrumentation devices in hospitals or clinics. Seven years ago, the first at home EKG measurement device was launched by Alive Corp, and now Apple Watch has entered the market, incorporating an EKG reading into the smart watch.
The company 23&Me has commercialized genetic testing and made it more accessible to the average consumer, with a price point of less than $200. The first test was available in 2007. Even now, with FDA approval, there are many in the scientific and medical communities who raise concerns about how individuals will interpret the results without a medical professional. Now over 5 million people have utilized the platform to get health insights from their DNA.
Taking a process and its related technology out of a controlled lab environment and placing it in the hands of consumers will always be scrutinized, but what is valued by consumers will prevail. Consumers no longer take a backseat to their health. They are in the driver’s seat now more than ever, with variety of at-home health tests and technologies that provide immediate information about their health. Their desire to invest in new approaches and technologies that can improve their well-being will fuel innovation and the spur the consumerization of healthcare well beyond what we can fathom today.