Macadamian Blog

CES 2015 Digital Health Summit

Macadamian Technologies

With more than 160,000 attendees, the equivalent of 28 football fields of exhibitor space, and an impressive contingent of healthcare experts, the experience was an exciting informational overload.

CES 2015 Digital Health Summit

Last week, Macadamian’s Director of Healthcare User Experience, Lorraine Chapman, and I attended CES’s Digital Health Summit in Las Vegas. With more than 160,000 attendees, the equivalent of 28 football fields of exhibitor space, and an impressive contingent of healthcare experts, the experience was an exciting informational overload.

New technologies and changes in U.S. healthcare payment systems are beginning to drive transformative change to the fundamental business models supporting healthcare delivery. Based on what we were able to process over the course of CES, here are the top six insights into Digital Health that we came away with.

1. Defining Digital Health

The term “Digital Health” encompasses many things and means different things to different people. To make sense of “Digital Health”, Wainright Fishburne of Cooley LLP segmented the term in to the following comprehensible categories:

  • Monitor – Wearables and sensors
  • Analyze – Dashboards, predictive analytics, and population health management
  • Act – Big data querying, machine learning, and artificial intelligence

Current products and services on the market focus on the first two categories with the ultimate goal of being able to take the resulting data and turning it in to something that is actionable.  The overall result is adaptive medicine and care based on individual patient requirements.

There is an interesting evolution starting in the role of care providers (physicians and the care teams), pharmaceutical, and insurance companies in the U.S. New regulations are driving insurance providers to require pharmaceutical companies and physicians to demonstrate positive patient outcomes as a direct result of their product and care service in order to receive payment. Patients are now empowered to choose which provider to engage. Given these regulatory changes, physicians are now strongly incented to view patients through a “retail” customer service delivery lens. This change is resulting in a shift away from the traditional fee for service business model.

2. From Wearables to Hearables

What if your body had a voice? This was a concept brought up by Samsung and reflected across the depth and breadth of wearables and sensors on display at the show. Bio-metric data from steps, sleep, body temperature, gait, and posture to oxygen levels are being collected from an astonishing array of devices such as smart glasses to socks.

However, engagement has been a tough nut to crack. The average wearable “drop-off” rate is 50 percent within six months of purchase. Many of the wristbands on the market today don’t provide enough information for patients with chronic conditions, for elite athletes, or even serious fitness buffs. In an effort to address some of these engagement issues vendors are attempting to develop solutions to seamlessly integrate their products into users’ daily lives. An example of this is the formation of partnerships with upscale jewelers such as Mont Blanc, Swarovski, and Guess to improve the “look”.

Strangely, given the number of wrist based wearables, accessing a wide range of bio-metric data from the wrist is difficult. As a result “hearables” and integrated sensors (think digital tattoos and patches) appear to be the next stage in product evolution.

3. How to Communicate with Cyborgs: Internet of Things in Healthcare

Remote sensors and interconnection of embedded devices available in Healthcare are ushering in a new era from at home diagnostic tools (blood pressure, glucose monitoring) to intelligent Bluetooth connected implants that provide data to enable adaptive patient care. Vaishali Kamat from Cambridge Consultants outlined the following key points:

  • Age of context. Sensors have gone beyond the wrist.
  • Appcessories for everyone. Make use of the ubiquity of mobile devices.
  • Top-up Data. Mobile devices are only a means to an end, meaningful insight derived from the data is the end goal.

The central question arising from conference discussions was how will consumers and physicians come together to action in a meaningful way the data being collected. Defining what data is required, data integrity and access and control are opportunities that still require further exploration.

4. The Rise of the “Care-jacker”: Big Data in Healthcare

With the Internet, “at home” access to health information has given rise to the “care-jacker” – consumers who are now taking a more active role in understanding their health issues and in personal care management. Care is no longer limited to the exam room with physicians now being able to send relevant information to patients.

While there is an impressive array of consumer wearable devices, sensors, and the advent of genome mapping producing a slew of bio-metric data, what is currently missing is data normalization. We now have a diverse set of data types coming from a myriad of devices and apps with potential to be accessed across multiple points. The problem is how to normalize both at the patient and the aggregate level, visualize, and then make sense of the data in a way that allows care teams to improve upon prescribed therapies. In order to achieve a truly collaborative care network, interoperability and data blending needs to be addressed first.

We came across an interesting new startup called LifeQ. This company has developed a proprietary algorithm that enables the measurement of a range of key physiological metrics in addition to aggregating data to facilitate providing insight into predicting issues like an impending heart attack. This is an early indicator of an increased focus on how to get to and achieve a predictive and preventative approach to medicine.

5. Overcoming the “Creepy” Factor

Privacy and data security continue to be top concerns. However, to achieve the “dream” of a new healthcare model, privacy and security issues must be overcome. Patients (consumers) must have ownership, access, and control over personal data to secure engagement in this new vision of healthcare. Successful vendors offer data storage and management systems will not only need to adhere to strict regulations and privacy policies, but will also have to establish trust with both patients and clinicians.

6. Secrets to Launching a Successful Healthcare Tech Product

In 2014 $6.5B was invested in 459 digital health companies. While there is blue sky opportunity in the market, the health tech sector seems to be a wild west of start-ups bringing to market cool technology solutions. What struck me was the following quote from Wainwright Fishburne of Cooley LLP, an investment firm, “Few start-ups go out to understand target market challenges.” So, while there are a ton of start-ups backed by investment money, there is also a high rate of failure. One piece of advice that was delivered by multiple presenters was for vendors to take the time to understand their target market in terms of needs, interest, and motivators. One example provided was of an elderly patient who was given a wearable device. Her response to the device was, “If you expect me to wear that, you better bling it up.”

Driven by federal regulation and an impressive range of technology innovation, healthcare appears to be on the brink of massive change. My company, Macadamian, is actively engaged in designing and developing user centric mobile, desktop, and web applications for the healthcare space. More recently, we have embarked upon some exciting projects related to the interconnectivity of remote devices and sensors or the “Internet of Things” (IoT). As a result what we have been working on and what I saw and heard at the Digital Health Summit, I have the hope that just on the horizon is a future where technology will be seamlessly integrated into our daily lives to deliver preventative care that is highly personalized and adaptive in real-time to patient needs.

If you are interested in learning more about our activities in Healthcare and Internet of Things, please message me.

Vani Edwardson
Director, Marketing

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