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article imageHealthcare breaks for wearable tech users

By Tim Sandle     Mar 20, 2016 in Health
For those living in the U.S. taking up wearable technology and using one of the health or fitness apps could lead to a reduction in insurance premiums, provided the collected information is shared.
Two insurance companies — UnitedHealth Group and Qualcomm — have begun a wellness plan that would offer lower premiums or cash rewards for patients who reach set health goals. The information would be collected via software pre-loaded onto wearable devices.
Speaking on the plan, Qualcomm Life Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Mault, told Forbes: “This is a cardiovascular prescription. What you are seeing in this announcement is the first breakthrough of wearables into this medical-grade arena.”
As an example, patient could earn $1.25 a day for walking 10,000 total steps. There would also be a top-up to allow someone to earn $1.50 per day for doing a set activity six times per day for “at least five minutes.”
The catch is, all personal data would be presented to the insurance company as evidence. The company could, of course, use this data for other "research purposes." Patients and consumers would need to weigh up the value of altered premiums (to show they are exercising) or lower medical bills (to show they are attempting to get fitter), against the loss of privacy. Another factor to weigh up is just how accurate are the apps? Digital Journal recently reported on concerns about Fitbit and the way the software reports results.
In related news, researchers have debated whether wearable technology can bestow upon the user “super powers” (or at least enhanced abilities). In a new study, profiling wearable technology developers, researchers from the University of Missouri stated: “For the less-able bodied, [one of the respondents] believed wearable technology could help them hear, see, or speak better. For able-bodied people … wearable technology could help them do things they could not do before. In both cases, wearable technology gave a sort of superpower to human beings.”
The profile also revealed those working in the wearable technology sector are a mix of computer programmers, fashion designers, and technologists, drawn from different experiences and previous work areas.
The study is published in the journal International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. The paper is titled “How do they create ‘Superpower’? An exploration of knowledge-creation processes and work environments in the wearable technology industry.”
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