Over the past 5 years, digital and mobile health technology has evolved to become an indispensable tool for many professionals across the healthcare industry, improving care delivery and expanding access to useful data streams. mHealth apps, wearables and telehealth all come to mind when we think of the industry’s latest innovations, and today, we’ll be discussing another kind of technology that brings an entirely unique dynamic to the healthcare landscape. Hoolux Medical is a company that specializes in medical applications for face detection technology. With a self-contained smart box that sits in a waiting room, Hoolux Medical looks to elevate patients’ health literacy levels by delivering engaging and informative content. We interviewed CEO Ian Gallagher to weigh in on the capabilities of his company's technology and what it means for patients and medical professionals.
What do you aim to provide to the healthcare industry with Hoolux Medical, and what need, or challenge, were you looking to address in its development?
Health literacy, plain and simple. I was frankly aghast when I first saw the statistics on health literacy and its effect on the efficiency of patient care. Only 12% of Americans are considered fully health-literate! The remaining majority have problems understanding and acting on the instructions they receive from their doctors.
It's estimated to cost the country approximately $256 billion annually – that equates to $740 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Worse than that is its toll on health. Put simply, low health literacy means sicker people. Raise people's health literacy and you directly improve outcomes, save money for end users, insurers and the state, and improve the efficiency of the entire sector.
That's where Hoolux Medical comes in. We unite a vast library of audiovisual healthcare messaging with state-of-the-art smart technology, to match content to the age and gender of the individuals watching. And it all happens in the waiting room, during time that would otherwise be wasted.
Here's an example. A 60-year-old man enters his doctor's waiting room. The Hoolux Medical device, HLX-1 – which sits on top of the room's TV – includes a smart camera that automatically determines the patient's age and gender. Connecting to a statistics database in the cloud, it identifies these demographics as risk factors for heart disease, stroke and prostate trouble. It then cross-references this against its library, and plays content on managing, preventing and being vigilant for signs of these conditions.
In the past few years, we’ve seen the healthcare industry embrace mobile and digital health solutions to improve care delivery and better understand their patients. How is Hoolux Medical engaging patients in ways that are different than other recent technologies?
Targeting. No other technology matches ours in matching specific content to people for whom it is specifically relevant. People are orders of magnitude more likely to engage with – and remember – content that's relevant to them. In healthcare, the stakes are particularly high. For example, knowing that antibiotics only treat bacteria and are ineffective against viral infections like cold and flu, or that blurred vision and asymmetric numbness are signs of stroke, could save lives. Our product cuts out the fat, so to speak, ensuring that people are only shown what's important to them.
For many who are developing mobile and digital health capabilities, a major purpose behind the development of these technologies is their ability to empower and inform patients. Beyond enabling more targeted patient engagement, do you see Hoolux Medical as a catalyst for educating patients? What role will mobile and digital health services play in educating patients in the future?
I certainly see Hoolux Medical as an educational catalyst, both for the health-literacy reasons I mentioned earlier, and in general to bring healthcare up-to-date with other industries in adopting a client-centric business model. A patient, like any other 21st-century customer, rightly expects more of their provider than old-fashioned fee-for-service. They want to feel engaged, cared for and valued, not just during consultation but from the moment they walk into a clinic. In that sense, Hoolux Medical acts as a kind of automated triage, letting patients bone up on their own care prior to seeing the doctor.
I've heard of more dramatic approaches to leveraging healthcare IT, such as giving patients more access to their own EMRs. But I'd argue that until health literacy levels increase, this could be downright dangerous. Imagine a patient with low health literacy perusing their own records. They could suffer undue anxiety by mistaking a harmless code for a serious diagnosis.
The collection and use of data is a major endpoint for many digital health capabilities. Is there something inherently unique in the way that Hoolux collects data – through face detection software – and does that correspond to collecting unique datastreams?
I would say that our whole approach is unique. Other data acquisition services either rely too heavily on subject eagerness (who has time to complete a paper or telephone survey?) or resign themselves to seeking lower-quality data (extrapolating from tiny samples that may not be representative). Hoolux is the first technology that can collect real-world data passively, but with an error margin of zero!
Say you're a doctor with three clinics running Hoolux. You access your online dashboard and see that over the past week, 458 patients engaged with your influenza vaccine promotion campaign. That's not an estimate, or an extrapolation. That means EXACTLY 458 patients watched the content. This is information that benefits not just the practice, but hundreds of potential big-data public health initiatives. And all without compromising patient confidentiality.
Finally, while we're speaking about benefits to the practice: improving health literacy is our number one mission, sure. But let's not forget that more literate, happier, healthier patients are more likely to stay and to refer friends and family. Furthermore, Hoolux has been shown to improve ACO scores.
Check out Hoolux’s website for more information on their face detection technology, and follow BBK on Twitter @bbkworldwide to stay up to date on the latest news in healthcare innovation.