Roughly ten days ago, I was at the annual sprawling nexus of new consumer technology that takes place in Las Vegas every year, otherwise known as CES. For the second year in a row, a breakout event called the Digital Health Summit was a packed house, close to standing room only, as people swarmed in to find out what's happening in the world of new health and medical devices, apps, and all manner of mobile wireless aids for living better.
I'm a little late reporting back, but better late than never, ay? Some of the exciting things I saw and heard about include:
Dexcom is developing a sophisticated transmitter (i.e. Gen 5) that has the built-in "brains" to transmit data to any Android ANT+ enabled device. In the future, they plan to incorporate Bluetooth Low Energy radios as well. In this demo — of a product that is pre-FDA approval of course — they were using the HTC Rhyme device, along with a custom application set up to accept Dexcom glucose data.
Dexcom CEO Terry Gregg writes to me: "We are showcasing this technology to Dr. Shuren (FDA/CDRH)this week as he visits Dexcom to learn more about mobile health and what we can do with it. We are also developing the apps to work on the Apple systems, which includes phones and tablets." Cool!
A company called iHealth was showing off what is sure to be many knock-offs of the iBGStar device, a glucose meter that plugs into an iPhone or iTouch. iBGStar from Sanofi is currently the only such device that is FDA approved, but hasn't hit market yet. (We've sent queries about timing on iBGStar, but haven't heard back.)
iHealth is designed to work with the iPad as well as the iPhone and iTouch.
MobiHealthNews reports: "It is unclear whether iHealth is planning to make its own test strips or partner up for those, but the press release describes them as 'industry standard test strips.' The device works with a free companion app, also developed by iHealth Lab, that charts blood glucose readings in 7-day, 14-day, or 30-day averages. Users can also use the app to remind them to take readings, manage their measurement records, schedule medication reminders, and share test results with care providers (which means the results can be emailed probably)."
To learn more, you can watch a video on the iHealth meter from Wired magazine here. iHealth's press info states that, pending FDA approval, their Smart Glucometer will be available in the latter half of 2012. We shall see...
The new Telcare meter was also making a big splash at CES. That's the one that automatically transmits glucose results to an iPhone. Quite a crowd was gathered around their booth. The meter definitely looked a little bit "chunky" as described by gadget guru/ type 2 PWD Walt Mossberg in a recent review. We previewed that product here, and look forward to testing that one out ourselves soon.
A company called Life Technologies unveiled breakthrough technology that can sequence an entire human genome in just a few hours as opposed to a few weeks. The cost to sequence one genome will be just $1,000 as opposed to the traditional $5-$10K. "It allows cost and time barriers to come down, which means hundreds of thousands of people could have their DNA sequenced," Rob Bennett, the company's VP of R&D told ABC News.
Other sources report that "A version of the Ion Proton Sequencer for mapping protein-encoding areas of the genome known as exomes is to be available at midyear" — which sounds pretty Star Trek to me, but the health-tech world was understandably going bananas over this new technology that stands to truly revolutionize gene sequencing.
Speaking of Star Trek, get this: Wireless technology giant Qualcomm is running a Tricorder XPrize competition for the healthcare sector. Yup, you heard right. The challenge is to create something that functions just like the tricorder gadget in Star Trek, with the ability to wirelessly and non-invasively diagnose just about any human malady. The official mission is to "drive development of devices that will give consumers access to their state of health in the palm of their hand."
The prize is $10 MILLION, so put your thinking caps on, Folks! Apparently there are teams forming all around the country to tackle this task, no matter that it seems like mission impossible.
Ford Motors was all over the Digital Health Summit, which may sound odd, until you recall that they're the ones who've been on a holy mission to lead the push for "in-car health management" for several years now. Remember when they announced the in-dashboard continuous glucose monitoring? And also the "diabetes doctor in your car" in partnership with Welldoc?
At CES, they were showing off the "Car That Cares," complete with a dashboard wirelessly connected to all sorts of health-related smartphone apps and portable medical devices — using their own Microsoft-powered Sync system connected to a "health coaching" system called Healthrageous. Ford owners also will be able to "upload data from Healthrageous coaching and other compatible medical devices and apps to Microsoft's HealthVault personal health records platform or to the Windows Azure cloud."
Note that Ford and Medtronic are seeking FDA approval for linking the Guardian RT CGM to Sync via Bluetooth, so you might actually be able view your CGM data on your car dashboard soon! If you care to drive a Ford, that is...
They were also showing off a prototype of a car seat with built-in heart rate monitoring, now being tested at a Ford research lab in Aachen, Germany. Data from the seat could ostensibly be used to measure stress on the driver that could affect safety.
My tweet upon seeing this thing: @AmyDBMine: Ford in-car heart monitor will monitor your heart thru your butt. Seriously, that's some advanced science.
None of this myriad health data flashing on your dash is supposed to be distracting, mind you! The Ford presenter kept repeating the mantra: "Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel."
Ironically, Ford delivered their big talk on their in-car health systems on the same day they announced vehicle recalls on 539,000 Ford SUVs and Minivans due to flaws that may lead to loss of power and even fires in some models. Yikes! How about designing vehicles that work well for transportation first? I'm just sayin'...
The two largest and most elaborate booths in the CES Health Pavilion area were from Qualcomm and UnitedHealth Group — both going gangbusters on mobile apps for health and wellness.
Qualcomm was showing all manor of digital health and fitness products. One thing attracting a ton of attention was a little device Qualcomm's invested in that you can stick to the back of your iPhone, iTouch, iPad or any Android device that turns your device into a clinical-grade ECG (electrocardiogram) test of your heart activity. No kidding!
It's called AliveCor iPhone ECG, and being billed as "the app that could save your life." All you do is hold your hands on the electrodes and the device takes your heart readings and transfers the data to the app installed on your phone or iPad. Watch a short video demo here.
Note that this device isn't for sale yet either (not yet FDA cleared as a medical device in the U.S.) but rumor has it the price point will be about $100. Pretty cheap for a personal, mobile ECG system! Forget going to the #$@%! hospital for that test, ay?
UnitedHealth was also showing off an array of new digital health products, listed here. Among them will be a new Health Care Cost Estimator, due to be released soon, that will be a competitor to CastLight Health, a tool for shopping for the best and most affordable healthcare plans.
They were most excited, however, about the new platform they're developing with Microsoft for "Group Health Gaming." Check out this short video, which also gives you a sense of what it's like to be at the CES Expo (loud! gadgety!)
And of course, food came into the picture. What can technology accomplish there? In a session on the concept of the new, "Connected Healthy Kitchen" several new "consumer platforms for food" were introduced. This included Yummly, equated to "Google for recipes, " which looked incredibly interesting. I need to spend some time on a site that claims to index "every recipe in the world"!
And also Recepedia, currently in Spanish, but coming soon to an English-language browser near you.
Finally, a new combined PHR service/social community for patients called CareVerge from Audax Health had pasted its logo all over the place, and even sponsored some of the food at the Digital Health Summit. The site looks pretty generic to me, and I doubt that anyone with diabetes would choose to spend time there over something much more targeted to our specific condition, like MyGlu.org.
Zippy technology is all great, of course, but real-world value and quality content are still Kings in my book. This couldn't be more relevant than in the emerging world of digital health solutions.