Views from CES 2018: The Next Evolution of Digital Health
The complexities of the U.S. healthcare system have done little to improve the transparency of prices and the quality and accessibility of care. As a result, we – the consumers – are the ones who not only suffer the consequences, but aren’t even sure why! Thankfully, health and technology companies are slowly moving toward disrupting this space, empowering consumers to monitor and manage their own health and wellness. I witnessed some of those disruptions first hand at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month, where hundreds of exhibitors gathered at the Health and Wellness Marketplace to show off their latest innovations.
Wearables become more than just step counters
Wearables at CES are nothing new; the show has featured countless activity sensors over the years. You might even be wearing one yourself right now! This year, however, we started to see them evolve far beyond from basic step counters and sleep trackers into truly compelling medical devices.
Fitbit is a great example of a classic activity tracker that’s now blurring the line between “consumer gadget” and “medical device”. The company recently invested $6 million into SANO, a glucose monitoring start up, and is providing its wristband to a new pilot program by United Healthcare and Dexcom to help Type 2 diabetic patients better monitor and address their health in real time.
As its own market becomes commoditized, Fitbit is showing how they can continue to add innovation that truly serves consumers’ health and fitness goals.
Artificial intelligence delivers personalized treatment
Another way that many companies are demonstrating an evolution in wearables is by making their data more tailored to individuals.
Product development and design firm Cambridge Consultants was present at CES, demonstrating a smart health monitoring wearable that opens the door to precision medicine. The body-worn sensor captures an individual’s baseline stress levels and applies machine learning algorithms to pinpoint genuine stress in order to deliver the most effective form of treatment.
This was just one example of how companies are looking at delivering actionable insights based on artificial intelligence as the next step for managing your own health through technology.
Care moves out of the doctor’s office and into the home
Another trend that I saw demonstrating how companies are putting care directly in the hands of the consumer was a rise in technology that brings healthcare home.
There were telehealth solutions, like Tytocare’s, which provides consumers with an otoscope, stethoscope, basal thermometer and digital camera to perform their own exam at home, and connect with their physician through live video or “exam and forward” for a later diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Medically Home unveiled the Cesia Continuum, which creates a “micro-hospital unit in the home,” linking physician oversights of the patient via telemedicine and integrating with Amazon Alexa so that patients can interact with care teams by voice.
Virtual reality supports mental well-being
In addition to the usual health and fitness tech suspects, I was impressed by the prevalence of technologies serving mental and behavioral health – and, just how many of these involved virtual reality.
Launched by TIME Inc., Lumen utilizes VR to provide a self-guided meditative experience, while Looxid Labs’ LooxidVR embeds EEG sensors with eye-tracking cameras to understand users’ emotional status, with the potential to conduct therapy for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Speaking at a roundtable session, Brennan Spiegel, research director of the Cedars-Sinai Health System, discussed how the hospital has seen the benefits of VR treatment for therapies such as rehabilitation and pain management, offering a potential treatment option for the opioid addiction crisis.
This year, CES showed that tech companies are taking consumer health seriously – from partnering with healthcare providers and delivering greater personalization to broadening the application of emerging tech to new areas of health and wellness. All in all, they reflected how the industry is rallying behind a critical mission: empowering consumers to manage healthcare on their own terms.
For more post-CES thoughts and observations from this year’s show, check out our latest episode of Hacks and Flacks, where we offer some advice for businesses thinking about showcasing at CES 2019 and talk through comms strategy best practices that can help ensure businesses are always leaving the best impressions with media and partners.