January 10, 2011

CES: Focus On Digital Health Tech

For the second consecutive year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is showcasing the latest innovations in digital healthcare technology.

Alongside 3-D televisions, smart phone technology and consumer tablets at the 2011 (CES), organizers staged a full-day "Digital Health Summit" featuring sessions such as "The Doctor in Your Hand: Exploring Mobile Health Options" and "Does Technology Motivate People to Stay Healthy?"

"The intersection of health and technology is really ripe for an explosion," Jason Goldberg, president and founder of Ideal Life told the AFP news agensy. Ideal Life, a Toronto-based company, makes monitoring devices.

"Technologies formally were cost prohibitive," added Goldberg. "But I can now sit down at the kitchen table for breakfast and check my blood sugar," he said, "and transmit the data in real-time to a healthcare provider using a device that costs less than $100."

Elliot Sprecher, senior data analyst for Israeli company IDesia, developer of a heartbeat sensor, told AFP that digital technology should lead to "better patient awareness of their own physical health. Typically if you're an informed consumer in any market you're going to get better service."

"For example, an electrocardiogram (ECG) is usually taken maybe once a year. That's not enough to capture the possibility of any real substantial heart problem. If you were taking readings every day eventually you'd also see the affects of bad lifestyle. Conversely you'd see the improvement if you started an exercise program." Sprecher continued.

Dr. Amar Setty, a Baltimore-based medical technology consultant, agreed that a number of barriers remain before full advantage can be taken of the digital revolution in the medical field.

"There's just too many different vendors dealing in too many proprietary systems," Setty told AFP's Chris Lefkow, adding that the vast promise of electronic health records also remains elusive for the moment. Privacy and liability are big matters. People are scared to enter the space in some ways. Physicians are somewhat scared because they don't want to be sued because they let a patient's record get out."

At the same time, Setty said he has seen "a lot of consumer-based mobile applications that are really interesting. Especially for people who want to exercise -- apps to help motivate them and track their data."

"I think really at the moment the industry is centered on individuals who are motivated to take charge of their own healthcare," Setty said. "What I'm personally looking for is something for everyone."

"There's absolutely no question that digital technology is going to impact health in a positive way," said Ananth Balasubramanian, senior director for product management at iMetrikus, a Sunnyvale, California-based company which securely transmits self-monitoring health data.

"The big thing is how the industry overcomes all of the political factors, the complete entrenchment of the system right now," he told Lefkow. "That needs to be changed."


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