VSP Global, an insurer covering 75 million members with various types of optical coverage, is getting into the mobile healthcare wearables market.
VSP is in the early stages of developing wearable technology—initially being embedded in the left frame of glasses—to track an individual’s health status. For now, a first-generation prototype has been completed following a 10-week beta test in early 2015, using black frame glasses to collect data and display steps, calories burned and distance traveled. A second beta test will collect heart rate, posture and gait data.
Black frame glasses are not nearly as commonly worn as they used to be. But the glasses, with the technology inside the frame and invisible from the outside, were a good start to test the concept with 26 VSP employees, as the company continues to work on ways to put the technology on more marketable and less bulky styles of glasses, says Jay Sales, co-leader of VSP Global's innovation lab, called The Shop.
The initial beta found that use of wearables was more stable over a 90-day period than is often common with other tests of wearable health and fitness technology. Multiple connectivity issues also were found and are being addressed. The product includes a mobile app for Android with an iOS app soon to come.
VSP’s eyewear division, called Marchon, is the third largest manufacturer of frames in the world and has a wide range of product lines. Having wearable technologies in eyewear could be especially beneficial because the technology is with the user throughout the course of the day and can collect data on different profiles. For instance, because the software is near the body’s center of gravity, the data collected could give better insights into an individual’s posture and gait. That could help determine if changes in walking behavior could improve back pain or recovery from hip or knee surgery, Sales says.
VSP has been around for 60 years and has witnessed major changes in the healthcare industry during that time. While the Internet dot-com movement about 15 years ago did not result in meaningful disruption in healthcare treatment processes and financing, the company believes that the personalized medicine/mHealth era will be disruptive and it wants to help its customers be ready by delivering a meaningful service, Sales says. That’s why more than two years ago VSP created the innovation shop “to disrupt ourselves before we got disrupted,” he adds.
VSP technology partners include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the USC Center for Body Computing. More information on the initiative, with the first prototype called Project Genesis, is available here.
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