For every mobile app that costs money, there is an underlying payment mechanism pushing the purchase through. As payment providers, different financial technology companies have their feelers in every industry trying to sell its wares to the masses via app.
However, in recent years, advances in health technology have begun to migrate fintech out of the Terms of Service shadows and into the limelight of the app itself. These healthtech/fintech crossovers can have far-flung effects — not only on the health of those who purchase these hybrid apps, but on the future of both of these industries.
One health technology market that has received a major fintech boost is weight loss. Dieting can be a herculean task for many, whether because of the cost involved in adopting a healthy lifestyle or because it’s really, really difficult to convince yourself to start eating right and exercising.
However, in 2013 the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study with the potential to shake up the weight loss industry. Research found monetary incentives were an important tool in helping people lose weight, especially when this money was divvied up in a group setting.
Enter healthtech: Pact, DietBet, FatBet, and HealthWage are all application that use financial incentives for weight loss by allowing individuals to gamble on how much weight they can drop in a group setting. Each individual contributes a certain amount of cash to the communal pool; in the event that you succeed in meeting your weight loss goal, you get paid. if you don’t, your money goes to the lucky (slimmer) group members.
A fully legal form of gambling, weight loss betting apps blend healthtech, fintech, and a dash of peer pressure and ego to create a highly motivating diet tool.
Diet gambling apps aren’t the only apps converting calorie loss into cash. A number of health apps count miles walked, run, or biked as a type of currency which can be exchanged for donations to a charitable organization.
With Charity Miles, for example, you choose from a list of over 30 global charities, and with every mile you walk, run, or bike, Charity Miles donates a certain sum to that charity – 10 cents for biking or 25 cents for running or walking. Thanks to corporate sponsorships, the user spends nothing to use the app (except for calories).
Other apps, like Walk for a Dog and ResQwalk, are specifically geared towards dog-walkers: each app donates a certain amount of money towards animal rescue shelters for every mile a dog gets walked. And while these apps certainly benefit the charities as well as the health of those who walk with the app, what’s transformative about apps such as these is the idea that exercise itself can be an exchangeable good.
Healthtech apps that integrate fintech into their main offerings are just a small part of wider trend of healthtech and fintech partnerships. In May 2016, reigning wearable fitness monarch FitBit acquired wearable payments technology from Coin. Although you won’t be seeing the fruit of this partnership anytime in 2016, the idea of a fitness tracker that’s also a payment device has a lot of potential — just ask anyone who’s ever gone for a run and left their water bottle at home.
“At a macro level, there are many similarities in technology trends in both the health and financial sectors”, says Sharlene Sternberg, marketing manager of Sensoria, an artificial intelligence sportswear manufacturer. “Both sectors are poised to take advantage of technological advances in artificial intelligence and increased automation to either improve their user experience or to alleviate impact from a consequential event.”
While fintech might be invading healthtech, healthtech has begun to infiltrate fintech products, too. For instance, B-secur, a fintech company based in Belfast, is marketing its biometric authentication system as a secure identification tool for a wide range of industries.
The solution, which uses ECG biometrics to determine a person’s identity, could have a big impact on finance, as far as making payments, financial transactions, data and identity more secure. It’s no coincidence that a main point of contact between health and fintech is privacy. “Both industries need to be concerned with privacy and security as they relate to the amount of data that is collected and disseminated,” Sternberg said.
While fintech and healthtech may not be due for a full merger, new partnerships show that both industries have a lot to gain from collaboration. “The main crossovers will come from how disruptive technologies can be utilized across multiple platforms,much like wearable technology and healthcare have converged today,” explained Sternberg. Add it to the trendwatch.