3 Trends That Are Pumping Life Back Into Americans’ Health

Mar 31, 2014

A patient wearing an Ekso Bionics "exoskeleton" gets their blood pressure taken. Wearable machines enhance human muscle power to help factory workers hoist heavier tools, lighten soldiers’ loads and enable spinal patients to walk. Photographer: Scott Eells for Bloomberg.

To mark the last day to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, we thought we would take a look at what lies ahead for our nation’s health. Here are three trends that show promise of a brighter future – and hopefully a few less technical glitches.

Wearable Devices – from Bracelets to Bionics

The wearable technology industry, which includes activity monitoring bracelets Fitbit and Jawbone, is skyrocketing.  ABI Research projects Americans will be wearing some 170 million gadgets to keep an eye on their vital signs within the next four years. Wearable tech has other innovative applications such as treating and preventing pain.  Thimble Bioelectronics’s patch uses low-voltage electrical stimulation to alleviate pain and this FDA-approved headband helps prevent migraines through nerve stimulation.

Ekso Bionics is also creating life-changing wearable devices that enable people with various levels of paralysis to stand and walk. Esko’s exoskeleton helped Sarah Ericson, who had lost the use of her legs 10 years ago, leave the wheelchair behind and walk again.

mHealth Means Better Information, Faster

Medical professionals have long struggled to collect timely, comprehensive information on their patients. mHealth, or mobile health, startups Avado, which was just acquired by WebMD, and TickiT are now helping doctors collect the right information from patients through a more convenient method than the clip board in the waiting room - their own mobile devices. This kind of technology allows doctors to focus less on data collection and more on providing the best quality care.

By using mobile health apps, patients can share blood pressure and glucose levels directly with their physicians, ask questions, or provide additional information. These kinds of efficiencies are projected to cut $305 billion in health care costs by 2021.

Health Technology Incubators

While most business incubators provide mentoring, lower operating costs, and other resources for startups across industries, there’s been an uptick in those focused solely on health technology.

Healthbox takes early stage tech startups tackling challenges in health care through a 16-week accelerator program.  Launched in Chicago in 2012, Healthbox has expanded operations to include Boston, Florida, Nashville, and London with a portfolio of 55 active companies. Rabauto was a member of the 2013 Healthbox Florida class. The robotics company is working to produce an affordable robot companion that helps autistic children and adults focus, communicate, and interact.

Also launched in 2011, StartUp Health takes companies of all stages through a three-year program with a focus on providing inspiration, education, and access. They’ve helped dozens of startups launch including Avado, Basis which was purchased by Intel last week, and CakeHealth

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