Four takeaways from the 2019 Digital Health Summit at CES

From smart homes helping seniors to how the industry can use the influx of data, here are the trends that emerged out of the Digital Health Summit at this year’s CES conference in Las Vegas.

As can be expected, this year’s annual CES conference in Las Vegas was filled with lots of glitzy technology, much of which the average person doesn’t really need (A smart fishing rod, anyone? Or a digital nail art printer? AI fitness boxing?).

Despite the plethora of nonessential devices, there were a few key insights that surfaced out of the conference’s healthcare track: the Digital Health Summit, which ran on January 8-9.

Here are four takeaways about healthcare from the summit:

Smart homes and voice tech can help seniors live independently
Technology can be used to let older adults stay healthy at home. That concept is part of Best Buy’s healthcare strategy, and as such, last year it acquired GreatCall, maker of health products like the “Jitterbug” phone for seniors.

But it takes more than cell phones and medical alert devices to keep seniors living independently. During a panel discussion, GreatCall CEO David Inns said “there’s a lot of work that can be done to customize the smart home solution” so it helps seniors and their caregivers. The rise of voice tech can also play a role in assisting the aging population. Inns said he believes “we’ve seen the penetration of Amazon” into the homes of seniors.

An executive on a different panel also pointed to the voice tech trend. Stuart Patterson is the co-founder and CEO of LifePod, which provides a voice-enabled service for aging populations and their caregivers. The company’s offering allows caregivers to manage a senior’s schedule, medications and appointments. From the senior’s perspective, the solution seeks to “represent the caregiver,” Patterson said.

How we can use the influx of healthcare data
In a session about the future of healthcare innovation, Verily chief medical and scientific officer Jessica Mega predicted that the increase in data is “going to change what we call certain conditions.” Eddie Martucci, co-founder and CEO of digital therapeutics company Akili Interactive, added that the potential reclassification will be particularly useful within the realm of mental health, where it’s hard to fit patients into a certain condition box.

A startup called Seqster is harnessing the hefty amount of data, but for a different reason. During a separate presentation at the summit, co-founder and CEO Ardy Arianpour explained how his company strives to bring together medical data (from health system EHRs), genetic data (from sites like 23andMe and Color) and fitness data (from wearables like Fitbits and Apple Watches). Part of the goal is to put “the consumer at the center of healthcare,” Arianpour said.

Pharma is looking at digital solutions
Geoffrey Starr, partner at Cooley, gave a presentation on the financial state of the industry. In it, he said one his predictions for 2019 is that the pharma sector will continue to go digital.

During a conversation at CES, Validic co-founder and CEO Drew Schiller also said he’s noticing a trend of life sciences companies getting interested in remote monitoring.

Healthcare goes out of this world
The healthcare and space industries converged during a January 9 panel. Aenor Sawyer is a practicing orthopedist who holds multiple titles, including director of the UCSF Skeletal Health Service and chief health innovation officer of the Translational Research Institute for Space Health. She talked about how space can impact the human body in ways like bone loss and muscle loss. Additionally, Sawyer highlighted how TRISH, which is funded by NASA, is exploring space health innovations.

Scott Parazynski, a doctor and former NASA astronaut, also gave a presentation on his experiences and five missions into space. One of the highlights, he said, was getting to go on a mission with John Glenn. When Glenn returned to space at age 77, Parazynski was assigned to serve as his personal physician.

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