CES 2016 Impressions

We sent Tina Boggiano to CES in Las Vegas to find out what consumer electronics can deliver for digital health in pharma.

YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl takes the stage at CES 2016

Over 170,000 people congregated for four days at Las Vegas’s largest event hoping to catch the first glimpses of the world’s first/smallest/most portable/smartest technology in every category imaginable.  The show is so large, I began to wonder whether certain groups would split off to make the show more manageable until I realized that the cross-pollination between industries actually gives rise to some of the most interesting innovations (think self-driving cars and smart home technology).

A first-time visit to CES is no small thrill, even for the most casual geek, and I was suitably awed. I attended the two-day Digital Health Summit, which featured topical presentations and panel discussions, and combed carefully through the dedicated wearables/health & wellness exhibit area.  My main goal was to see whether consumer electronics companies were ready to introduce anything truly impactful for healthcare and specifically pharma, or if it was just about slicker wearables and delivery of scripts by drone. I set my sights on finding three things that eyeforpharma readers might find interesting or relevant to their digital health plans and aspirations.

The selection criteria were pretty basic. The “winners” should have the potential to contribute to improved health outcomes by:

1. Solving a real problem for a key digital health stakeholder, or

2. Generating insights from data that could positively change behaviors or improve clinical decision making, and

3. Already be commercialized or have a believable path to commercialization

LifeQ precision medicine platform is an open platform that accepts and integrates user-generated data from a host of various sensors and wearable devices from Nest® thermostats to blood pressure cuffs and activity monitors. It can also capture data hand-entered by users such as weight and clinical data, such as lab results and genomics data. LifeQ’s sophisticated algorithms and biomathematics models enable corporate customers - insurance companies, employers and pharma companies - to generate insights upon which enrolled users can base important health decisions.

Why I love it: No matter how beautiful devices get, their potential to change health behaviors in a meaningful way will be limited until their data is integrated with other relevant data and run through algorithms that deliver insightful information upon which health and/or clinical decisions can be made. While possibly not unique in their offer, LifeQ were the only company I saw at CES with the potential to take the next value-creating step that can help deliver on the promise of digital health to improve outcomes and decrease healthcare costs. 

KiCoPen connected insulin pen from Cambridge Consultants. The folks at Cambridge Consultants built the beautifully designed KiCoPen, along with a sophisticated diabetes management solution as an internal project. We already know that the more passive we make data collection the easier it is for patients to self-track, hopefully driving positive behavior change. KiCoPen works just like a normal glucose pen but automatically sends the actual dose delivered to the user’s smart phone.

Why I love it: The only thing I don’t like about KiCoPen is that no pharma company is actually using it yet. There are other connected pens on the market, but this one also solves one of the big problems of connected devices - KiCoPen is completely self-powered. KiCoPen captures all the energy it needs from the kinetic energy of removing and replacing the cap. This means it’ll never end up at the bottom of a drawer because the user didn’t get around to buying a new battery for it or because it was a hassle to keep recharging. Companies looking to differentiate in the competitive insulin market, should check out KiCoPen.

VitalSnap™ from Validic. Validic’s digital health platform connects people and data from their sensors, wearable devices and apps with their hospitals, payers and wellness companies. At CES, Validic introduced VitalSnap, a new mobile technology which allows users to capture data from non-connected devices. Users simply select their model from the list of supported devices and take a picture of the display with their smartphone. The data on the display is read and saved to the associated app so it can be logged or sent according to the wishes of the patient.

Why I love itVitalSnap is my favorite CES 2016 discovery because it will enable users, who can’t or won’t give up their favorite “dumb” device, to log and share readings with their doctor, family or favorite apps using the smartphone they already have. It’s elegant and cheap and will certainly elevate the quality of self-tracking for a large population of less tech savvy individuals. "It is estimated by industry analysts that 75 to 90 percent of the medical device market is unconnected, meaning valuable patient insights are not being used to aid the speed and accuracy of diagnosis, engage patients, or improve the effectiveness of care treatment plans," Drew Schiller, CTO and co-founder of Validic, said. "With VitalSnap, Validic is meeting the industry where it is. Digital health is clearly the future, but physicians and researchers can use VitalSnap with their patient populations today."It’s elegant and cheap and will certainly elevate the quality of self-tracking (and hopefully medication adherence) for a large population of less tech savvy individuals". 

Honorable Mentions

I didn’t even make it through half of the nearly 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space but did manage to see a lot of 3D printers, stunning 8K plasma screens, countless headphones and (loud) speakers. There was even a smart bidet that tracks bowel habits(!). I also came across a few things, which while impressive didn’t quite meet the exacting pharma-relevant criteria of my three winners, but spoke to my heart nonetheless:

The Kanega watch from UnaliWear is an attractive, surprisingly light-weight, wearable device designed to keep seniors independent, active and safe. Kanega is equipped with cellular, WiFi and GPS technologies that enable an active medical alert when the user is in or away from home. It is voice-controlled and can call for assistance if the wearer falls, is lost or needs medication reminders. www.unaliwear.com

The Gyenno Spoon also has the potential to keep people independent longer.  The spoon uses robotic technology to offset tremors of people with movement disorders, restoring their ability to feed themselves. The loss of ability to perform activities such as feeding and self-care can often be the tipping point that drives the expensive decision to elevate the level of care for people such as those living with Parkinson’s Disease. A clever solution like the Gyenno Spoon has the potential to restore dignity and improve quality of life for people living with tremor disorders and their caregivers. Check out the demo video.

The TZOA environmental sensor is beautifully designed in a friendly, rounded triangle shape with an appealing copper finish. It measures air quality, temperature, UV exposure, ambient light, atmospheric pressure and humidity and can be worn on the wrist or fastened to a bicycle, bag, car or baby buggy. The effects of these parameters on certain chronic conditions (e.g., asthma/COPD, migraine) are well known and tracking them may help improve self-management. Not much happens with this data yet, but hopefully devices like this one will invite new exploration into how environmental factors may provide more insight into a broader set of conditions than currently understood. www.tzoa.com

These technologies, while compelling, may not be unique or necessarily the best of their kind. The companies do, however, see the convergence of consumer electronics and serious healthcare innovation as a strategic part of their business going forward. This future-orientation helped make them unique and notable for their presence at CES.

The consumer electronics industry is doing a good job of making self-tracking ever more interesting and fashionable. This can only be good for user and patient engagement, especially as wellness and serious medical uses continue to converge. The consumer space can keep growing potential value in digital health by recognizing how to apply the right technologies to the areas of greatest clinical and economic need. For Pharma, especially those companies looking to partner in integrated healthcare solutions, the incremental advances should be watched with interest.

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