The health landscape was turned on its head in 2014. With the rise of wearables and other data-driven developments, the way people access and manage their health is quickly changing. As 2015 approaches, these transformations present major opportunities for innovation, both with new product ideas and enhanced wellness in the workplace.
Here are the 10 biggest moments in wellness this year and what they mean for 2015 and beyond:
1. Aetna shut down its CarePass platform.
More insurers are attempting to encourage healthy and preventative behaviors and engage clients through web and mobile platforms, such as Aetna's CarePass. After shutting it down, it will be interesting to see how other insurers approach these platforms in 2015.
2. Apple launched HealthKit.
After partnering with the major electronic media record company Epic, Apple made its debut in the health tech market with Apple Watch and HealthKit. The advances in wearable tech, such as continuous heart rate monitors, will benefit consumers as they collect and access useful data about their health.
3. Google released Fit.
By creating its own health-tracking platform for Android, Google opened the door to opportunities for developers and manufacturers to build innovative products using the information they extract from this platform or add to it.
4. Aetna bought bswift.
Following the shutdown of CarePass, Aetna signaled a move toward a more streamlined, customer-centric experience by acquiring the benefits software company bswift. In 2015, we'll continue to see more insurers partner with private exchanges to deliver a more consumer-centric experience and expedite innovation.
5. There was a spike in high-deductible health plans.
Consumers are buying more HDHPs through private exchanges. Although this might cause higher individual out-of-pocket healthcare expenses in the short term, it'll exert price pressure on players in the health space, resulting in lower prices in the future. This will also be largely beneficial for consumer health companies looking to help consumers make better choices by developing tools to help them find doctors, price transparency, and prescription services.
6. In June, digital health funding surpassed the 2013 total.
After a painfully slow path to adoption, digital health initiatives are finally gaining momentum. Increased financial support and new legislation make this a lucrative sector for startups and big players alike. More money than ever has been flowing into startups and larger companies, as total digital health funding more than doubled from 2013 to 2014.
7. The FDA proposed to deregulate some digital health software.
Deregulation of consumer medical devices allows companies to launch products quickly, without worrying about compliance standards or federal oversight. Critics say deregulation puts consumers at risk, but at the pace this industry is growing, companies that don't operate safely and offer quality products won't survive.
8. Massachusetts became the first state to require price tags for healthcare.
Massachusetts continues to be a leader in healthcare innovation, demanding that insurance companies post the costs for medical visits and procedures on their websites. Hampered by non-standardized pricing and incomplete information, this system isn't perfect, but it's a step toward transparency and consumer empowerment.
9. Diagnostic tools have continued to get smaller and cheaper.
Many devices needed to treat chronic conditions are becoming smaller and cheaper, shifting the responsibility for care from providers to patients themselves. Devices such as a nanochip that diagnoses type 1 diabetes will revolutionize diagnostics and treatment.
10. Backlash against Obamacare has been diminishing.
Obamacare rollout and enrollment controversies have been absent from headlines over the past few months, which is a good sign that the Affordable Care Act and federal exchanges got a much-needed tech overhaul.
These pivotal moments reveal a few important trends we can anticipate for 2015. More public and private entities will work together to find innovative uses for data, and a more data-driven triage healthcare system will emerge. As Google and Apple enter the marketplace, they'll likely set standards for sending, receiving, and collecting consumer data. And as private exchanges enter the market, they'll put more products into the hands of everyday consumers. Those products will have to provide real value, as consumers will be paying out of their own pockets, finally starting to close the loop and make health much more consumer-centric.
The health space is ripe with opportunity for 2015. How will you take advantage of it?