How can we Design Digital Health Devices to Keep Up?

I Just got my new iPhone 7...

... And I realize now that there are several devices I can no longer use. While many individuals were complaining about the removal of the 3.5 mm earphone jack and their now irrelevantearphones, I lamented the loss of many digital health tools in this generation of phone design. 

Then I realized that we had been down this road before, when the iPhone 5 had moved on from the 30-pin dock to the Lightning connector now ubiquitous across most recent generation iOS products. 

(Soon to be) Forgotten Digital Health Devices

In many ways, I feel that the graveyard of digital health devices on the market will only continue to grow larger in the years to come, if we do not endeavor to design products that not only fit the needs of the present, but the market of the future. 

For example, here is a list of devices that I feel have been encumbered by their reliance on previous designs requiring direct tethering to a device to function:

  • iBGStar - Sanofi - Previously found in the Apple Store and recommended as a breakthrough digital health device, it was one of the first devices to feel the backlash of usefulness when the iPhone 5 migrated to the Lighting cable, foregoing the 30-pin connector. 
  • Smart Stick Thermometer - Kinsa Health - A thermometer that connected via the headphone jack, it now cannot be used (without a Lightning adaptor) for newer iPhone Models.
  • Align - iHealth - A glucose meter that connected via the headphone jack, it similarly will face issues in use with the change in connectors.

These devices, in the years to come, will be relegated to be forgotten, similar to the 30-pin iPhone docks found in some hotels/motels across the country. While the ability to connect the device dramatically lowered the price when compared to their bluetooth enabled peers, it has also lowered their so called 'shelf-life'

Going Forward

Undeniably, the solution to designing some form of digital health device to take measurements will rely on a non-tangible way of syncing to a mobile device. Most devices can utilize Bluetooth, which may be the safer economic answer to maintaining viability for longer use by patients. I myself still use my Withings Bluetooth Blood pressure cuff and AliveCor/Kardia device still, as they only need to be paired with my smartphone. 

Personally, I think that may be the better choice (though I won't get into the security issues, which I know are present) to help these devices be useful for years to come. As such, some items I think that need to be taken into consideration include the following when purchasing a digital health device:

  • How does the device connect to share data? Does it use Bluetooth or some direct way of connecting?
  • Battery life and how does it charge?
  • Material it is made of? (Let's not forget the rashes from previous Fitbit models)
  • Company longevity and support?
  • Operating systems it is supported on

I welcome your thoughts and comments.