Microsoft recently launched the ‘Band,’ a $199 fitness tracker bracelet that monitors personal biometrics 24-hours a day. It also launched the Microsoft Health app and Microsoft Health Service, a platform that centralizes consumers’ data from a variety of health devices and apps stored in the cloud.
Perhaps most importantly, data from these products and other medical devices can be shared with medical providers through Microsoft’s HealthVault, an integrative platform built primarily for healthcare organizations.
What is the ‘Band’?
The Band is a thick bracelet with a rectangular screen on the inner wrist. Like all fitness trackers, it provides the tools to help you set personal goals and track your progress. The Band can tell you how many steps you’ve taken today and how long it will take to recover from your morning workout, how much deep sleep you got last night and how much of your night was disturbed. It can measure your sweat levels to tell you when you’re stressed, and teach you how different aspects of your day affected your well-being.
The Band creates a specialized health and lifestyle record through features like GPS run mapping, 24-hour heart-rate monitoring, calorie burn measurement, guided workouts, sleep quality tracking, a timer and alarm, and a microphone to dictate notes and reminders on-the-go. If you use an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone, you can receive notifications such as email previews, calendar alerts, social media notifications, and incoming calls and texts, all by glancing at your wrist.
What does this mean for physicians?
The Band is ambitious and highly functional, but far from perfect– it was recently criticized in BusinessInsider as “ugly, clunky, and inaccurate.” Even so, Microsoft’s attempt to centralize health data from all existing apps and devices marks an important shift towards healthcare consumerism. And Microsoft’s not the only open-platform player– Apple’s HealthKit, Google’s Google Fit, and Samsung’s SAMI are other emerging health tech aggregates. Jawbone has also started connecting its Up bracelet to other devices.
With continued innovation, physicians could use health wearables like the Band to monitor costly chronic ailments and create sustained, highly specific health reports for non-local patients. Physicians could also use the Band as a preemptive tool to spot physical irregularities early on. Perhaps one day doctors will be able to perform routine check-ups digitally, freeing up their time to deal with more serious ailments in-house.
Until recently, most health tools were siloed and designed for either personal or professional use. Now, tech giants like Microsoft and Apple aim to coalesce and democratize biometric data and connect patients with physicians. Their new focus on health and fitness is a step towards consumer-driven healthcare, which will allow clinical data to be collected from all kinds of personal devices.