PRSonally Speaking

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Digital Health Revolution
 
by Ash Patel, MD
 
Over the past four decades, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been a key venue for unveiling the latest technological innovations. The video cassette recorder (VCR) in 1970, compact disc (CD)  in 1981, HDTV (1998) and Blu-Ray disc (2003) to name a few all saw debuts at the event. This years show saw a number of wearable technologies, connected devices and 3-D printers emerge, as well as more unusual innovations such as smartphone cases that acted as electric stun guns and thermal imaging cameras.
 
"Electronics companies have seen the potential in capturing a market that is comfortable with technology, but also in need of healthcare solutions."

This year there was a 40% growth in digital health exhibitors over last year’s show.  Wearable devices and fitness trackers were a big presence, with newly announced devices looking to be more functional, and offer ease of use over current offerings. According to the 2014 Accenture Digital Consumer Tech Survey(http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-Digital-Consumer-Tech-Survey-2014.pdf), 52% of consumers are interested in buying wearable health trackers, and with major companies such as Sony and LG releasing the Sony Core and LG Lifeband Touch respectively, this does not look like a trend that will disappear.

The AARP states that eight in 10 of its members own a computer, tablet, or e-reader, and that 36% of people over  the age of 50 are “extremely or very comfortable” with technology. Electronics companies have seen the potential in capturing a market that is comfortable with technology, but also in need of healthcare solutions. 
 
"For healthcare providers an array of technology providing remote monitoring was unveiled."

Siemens unveiled the miniTek device that connects the user’s hearing aid via Bluetooth to their phone, tv or other audio device, enabling control of the device via smartphone app (http://youtu.be/UdWfxShoidM).
 
The catchphrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” , based on the 1980’s commercial is well known, but the latest devices feature automatic fall detection, and operate on a cellular network, offering peace of mind to seniors home and away, relegating that famous phrase to the history books.
 
For healthcare providers an array of technology providing remote monitoring was unveiled. The Vancive Metria system, uses a disposable patch based wearable sensor, which can detect vital signs, EKG, patient activity and send information to smartphone app or web interface. The Scandu Scout has the appearance of an expensive iPhone accessory, but the function of a gadget from Star Trek.  The small handheld scanner connects with the users  smartphone to record a series of vital signs (temperature, HR, EKG, pulse ox), saving them to a profile on the accompanying app. The aim of the device is to warn of potential problems or help its owner manage a chronic condition.
 
From the Plastic surgery perspective, I think that some of these innovations are exciting, and hope that the near future will provide us with better ways to monitor free flaps, view imaging and photographs and interact with our patients.