Wellness Trends for 2019
The term wellness is everywhere. Consumers want to use a holistic approach to take control of their well-being and companies are responding. New products are popping up practically every day to meet the demand.
At the core of everything is data. We are surrounded by information, but how do we synthesize it into actionable and usable information efficiently? The simple answer is humans can’t. We have to use powerful computational devices and algorithms to take us from the information age into the intelligence age. As more interactions take place in digital form, we’ll utilize automated systems and intelligent filters to ease the computational burden.
The effects of artificial intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly change the economics of just about every industry. With machine learning, a subset of AI, systems can learn from the data and take predictive actions. Cognitive computing and machine learning will churn through this data to allow for a better understanding of users and create new applications for them.
Healthcare gets really personal...
Connected healthcare devices (i.e. wearables) allow for more frequent data collection, as opposed to one standalone reading at a doctor’s office. With this comes the promise of better remote monitoring and precision medicine in real time. I’m particularly excited about advancements in connected glucose monitors and Bluetooth-enabled inhalers, as both attack chronic problems that could benefit from more insight and efficient dosing.
In addition, previously expensive or cumbersome professional devices are going mainstream. Now an allergy sufferer can simply scan a food sample to see if it contains gluten or peanuts. I’ve personally swabbed, spit and drawn blood to find out personalized insights about my biome and genetic proclivities. Continued refinement will allow for greater accuracy—the goal is to get device-feedback that is more personalized and prescriptive, rather than reactionary and inconsistent.
… And beauty does, too.
Personalized products, like foundation that matches your skin tone and shampoos and conditioners designed for your texture, are the future. There are also new microbiome-protection skincare products aimed at helping counterbalance environmental stressors on your skin. Companies are using customer input and consumer-facing devices to provide these products—but the most effective and personalized products are still years out.
Healthcare becomes available on-demand.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are growing in the healthcare space, whereby they bypass traditional middle-men allowing for lower prices to consumers, better relationships and greater control over all processes.
Vertically integrated businesses can offer better customer experiences by researching, designing, making, marketing and selling their own products. When I was pregnant, I had my monthly vitamins sent to me, and my prescriptions delivered within two hours.
We’re also seeing consumers get great, high quality experiences through in-home boutique fitness options. With these, users have access to top instructors and great hardware without ever leaving their homes.
Women’s health takes center stage.
The powerful directive of equality and empowerment for all is affecting every industry. In healthcare, we are seeing a growing number of companies aimed at improving feminine healthcare, including those designed to improve experiences around fertility, pregnancy, delivery and post-partum.
New devices are being designed to make women more aware of what is happening to their bodies and provide tools and resources for improving health outcomes. Previously, most stakeholders at insurance companies, hospitals and tech companies were men, but diversity at the leadership level is spurring this evolution.
(Tele)Therapy goes mainstream.
There are obvious benefits in having sessions over video, including convenience, accessibility and reduced costs, thanks to remote evaluation, diagnosis, prescription and ongoing treatment that it affords. Layer on DTC brands and customers can fulfill other health needs from their computers.
While it doesn’t replace a physical doctor’s visit, it’s great for when patients can’t get to a doctor and need a prescription for a common condition like a cold or ear infection. It’s also gives quick access to a remotely located expert in the cases of treating veterans with PTSD or offering specialized treatment plans for speech therapies.
Wellness is not just about fitness and nutrition, but regeneration, too.
Companies, and individuals, are taking note that sleep, in conjunction with nutrition and fitness, is critical to overall health and well-being. That’s why we’re seeing a slew of sleep-related products, ranging from fitness trackers integrating sleep tracking, bedding that tracks sleep habits and adjusts temperature, and lighting designed to help you wake more naturally.
Based on both anecdotal evidence and research in this category, accuracy and efficacy of the correlation between understanding sleep habits and improved wellness is still questionable. Similar to other connected devices, refinement and better personalized coaching tools will significantly improve this category.
Tools to track and improve air quality will gain popularity.
Your environment can impact your total health as well, and we’re seeing a lot of devices claiming to track and/or improve the air in your home and around your being hitting the market. While air purifiers are growing in popularity, no ideal efficacy testing standard exists yet.
Voice interactions on the rise.
As more and more technology is thrust upon us, interacting with it can become cumbersome. But since speech is generally more accurate and quicker than other methods, there is significant growth in the use of multi-modal human-device interactions.
For instance, new headphones incorporate voice assistants so you can select your music on a run or get customized feedback on things like ways to improve your cadence or stride. While voice is still not a perfected mode of input, with continued usage and improvements, we will continue to approach actual natural language processing. Every time you speak to Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri, you are helping to refine voice interactions.
Augmented and virtual reality take flight.
Virtual reality is a technology with almost endless potential, but we’re not there yet. While consumer products are getting better (shrinking form factors, higher resolution, better audio, and more intuitive interactions), they still aren’t the most consumer-friendly, as they are still largely limited and relatively passive at mass scale. More interactive environments will provide more empathetic and engaging experiences. For instance, providing a platform to enable non-migraine sufferers to experience what someone having one goes through is incredibly powerful.
It’s important to think about VR not just as transportation to another space, but rather collective experiences. While VR shuts off the real physical world in favor of an alternate one, AR layers digital elements into a live view, often using a smartphone’s camera. It’s incredible powerful in healthcare, where providers can more readily learn new skills and train more people at once. I can imagine a future visit to my doctor’s office where my daughter’s growth chart and relevant information will just pop up around her to help complete her health picture. Relevant and contextual information can simply appear as doctors are treating patients or allow them the opportunity to practice in an interactive manner.
You can see the future of digital health and fitness technology at CES 2019.
Rachel is the Chief Technologist and Engineering Director for the Good Housekeeping Institute. Rachel has had the opportunity to evaluate thousands of products during her Good Housekeeping tenure, including toys for the magazine's annual Toy Awards, dozens of cars in conjunction with Car and Driver, and countless innovative, breakthrough products of all kinds. She has appeared as a brand ambassador on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox Business, MSNBC, and Anderson Live, among other live appearances. She also speaks at public conferences on the subjects of tech trends, innovation, and women in STEM. Rachel holds a BSE in Mechanical Engineering, Applied Mechanics, and Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania, and previously had roles in Public Relations for Sony Pictures Entertainment and its affiliate agency Allied Advertising. As a female engineer, it is Rachel’s goal promote an environment in which men and women of all ages can excel.