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Fitness technology units expected to race off shelves

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Earlier this year, Walgreens introduced a significant boost to its Steps with Balance Rewards program, enabling users to link wireless activity trackers such as FitBit, Withings and BodyMedia to the aspirational wellness program. Loyalty cardholders who sync with one of these devices get two times the points associated with healthier behaviors — 20 points per mile and 20 points per day for tracking their weight. And each device linked earns 250 points.

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That may be the first step toward creating a retail solution with wireless devices sold at the pharmacy that are linked back to the pharmacy on an ongoing basis. According to Consumer Electronic Agency’s semi-annual report, “The U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecasts,” fitness technology unit shipments are expected to reach 10.2 million, with revenues reaching $854 million in 2013. In 2014 it is predicted unit sales will reach 13 million, with revenues reaching $1.2 billion.

The need for a wireless solution coupling self-diagnostics and a remote healthcare professional is certainly there. Nearly 4-in-10 U.S. adults are caring for an adult or child with significant health issues, according to a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this year. That is up from 30% of U.S. adults in 2010. And these caregivers are heavy technology users who are much more likely than other adults to take part in a wide range of health-related activities, such as tracking blood pressure monitor or blood glucose meter readings remotely.

The next step toward retailing wireless and remote self-diagnostic tools effectively in the pharmacy space may be creating a good-better buying strategy, suggested Ranndy Kellogg, COO of Omron Healthcare, leaving the higher price point and more volatile new technology to such electronics operators as Best Buy, which is one of the places where first adopters are shopping for these products. In the spring, Omron will be launching a refresh of its blood pressure line featuring Bluetooth low energy and a corresponding smartphone app that doesn’t require setup. “With the new device, [remote monitoring] will happen automatically,” he said. “If I want to see my mother’s blood pressure readings, as long as I have her account, I can look online and see them.”

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