Withings CEO Cedric Hutchings “health is no longer something you begin to think about the day you are sick”

May 21, 2015
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Thanks to their heralded activity trackers and other connected health devices, Withings has quickly grown to be on of the leaders in the “Mhealth” space. Although consumers have been rapidly flocking to their devices, they know that the their devices will only achieve their greatest impact once all players (health care professionals, governments, etc) in the healthcare system are a part of the Mhealth revolution.

In advance of next week’s Connected Conference, we’ve asked CEO & cofounder Cederic Hutchings to talk to us about how fitness tracking and the quantified self more generally transforming healthcare as well as what needs to happen to generalize this trend across the entire healthcare system.

How do you see fitness tracking and the quantified self affecting how we manage our health at a deeper level?

As highlighted by BJ Fogg, Professor of behavioral science at Stanford, changing to healthy habits is one of the most difficult thing to achieve; most people set unrealistic goals that prove counter-productive, leading to both disappointment and failure. His behavioral model lists three key success factors: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. Smart devices are aimed at bringing all three together. Simply put, data generated by an Activité watch or a Smart scale creates awareness, motivation through simple objectives. Most importantly, they reward small achievable efforts repeated day after day. At the end of the day, our users see the improvements

From Withings’ perspective, this is not simply an assumption. For instance, we wrote a White Paper with the prominent US cardiologists Eric Topol, showcasing statistics on how the repeated use of devices helps people take better care of themselves. Withings data showed that the regular use of the connected tracker is correlated to a higher level of physical activity. Users who wear a tracker ever 2 out of 3 days typically walk an average of 6,195 steps a day. That’s 80% more than the average of 3,441 daily steps recorded for users who wear an activity tracker one day out of 3.

Beyond prevention for the healthy, chronically ill patients who use smart devices begin to take ownership of their health data in a whole new way. This is truly a paradigm change because your health is no longer something you begin to think about the day you are sick talking to your doctor. Now, the patient is a the center of the information, and he wants to play an active role before it is too late. Patient-centric medicine means more preventwithings2ion, prediction, personalization and patient participation

Are the principal actors in the current ‘health care system’ starting to take notice of the quantified self? If so, how are they integrating this data into what they do? 

The consumerization of healthcare is almost impossible not to notice. We are no longer talking about quantified self, as a matter of fact, but about “connected health” or “MHealth”. Soon, we will be talking simply about health, because connectivity will seem somewhat obvious. Healthcare players are realizing that end consumers are now empowered with remote monitoring tools that used to be only accessible to healthcare professionals. Costs have shrunk dramatically for the same services. Now that you can track the evolution of your weight or blood pressure seamlessly and send the information easily with your smartphone to a doctor, it has become difficult for many patients to understand why they should not benefit from added-value prevention services.

Apple has understood this consumerization of healthcare better than most health IT companies, leading the charge with its healthkit app. Apple has convinced major Electronic Health Record (EHR) providers to offer patient apps that connect to the Apple’s Healthkit, allowing patient generated data to flow from e.g., Withings devices to the doctor file through the smartphone. This is a major leap forward. As a result, we are seeing more and more hospitals coming to us for devices to equip patients.

What needs to change in order for us to have a fully integrated health management system?

There needs to be economic incentives for doctors and hospitals to follow patients remotely. This is beginning to take shape. In the US for instance, Obamacare is trying to organize healthcare along the principle of “fee for outcome” instead of “fee per doctor visit”. If you can achieve this, than it makes more sense to do more things remotely and prioritize.

Beyond the economic incentive, we must still work on providing evidence that patient engagement leads to better health outcomes. This is why the Withings Health Institute is now partnering with many medical institutions to conduct such research. This is a challenge, because research, from data collection to publication, to widespread adoption by doctors, takes a lot more time than consumers need to adopt a new technology.