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What’s Ahead for Healthcare?

Within about two weeks of each other, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the OneMedForum in San Francisco. Innovation, Obamacare, crowdfunding, accountable care organizations (ACOs) and digital health were important topics seen by attendees through two different lenses. In this article, I report on the trends discussed at CES and OneMedForum and what they mean for the healthcare and medical device industries moving forward.

Digital Health at CES

Las Vegas is an appropriate place for CES. The show floor resembles a casino with the noise, flashing lights and endless competition for eyes and attention. Away from the crowds and the big keynotes are Summit meetings and panel discussions, which this year focused on digital health, fitness tech and Baby Boomers.

The digital health space has gone from not much three years ago to the area where the more interesting tech innovation is happening. The most noteworthy thing offered by the large traditional electronics booths was large curved televisions. The digital health space showed fitness tracking, wellness management, patient management automation and remote point of care devices—more compelling than curved televisions.

The technological drivers in this space are inexpensive, robust and include small sensors connected to increasingly small, powerful and energy efficient computers. Intel announced Edison, a chip that turns a fully functional computer into the size of an SD card. MC10 is making sensors that are small and flexible, like a Band-Aid. (See Exhibit 1.) These technologies can easily communicate to the cloud and each other in the “Internet of things” and even a step further, with multiple connected people streaming biologic data to an “Internet of you.” This data monitoring and gathering reaches into the brain with inexpensive and sophisticated brainwave monitoring from companies such as InteraXon and NeuroSky.

Exhibit 1: Concept model of a flexible sensor patch by MC10

CES1 web

In addition to the sensors and data gathering devices, on display at CES were adaptive mobility technologies by Ekso Bionics and AlterG that assisted individuals with lower extremity weaknesses. Battery technology has advanced to the point where these powered suits have become light enough to wear, and have sufficient battery life to be practical. Other applications for robotics in healthcare seek to reduce labor costs as more patients in the developed countries age and require home-healthcare services.

CES3 web

 

Paul Thacker, Ambassador for Ekso Bionics demonstrating the Ekso powered suit at Robotics on the Runway, CES 2014.

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