Digital Health: More Than Consumer Electronics

January 23, 2014

It is widely understood that the opportunity to revolutionize the way healthcare is delivered is both tremendous and necessary. And yet I was struck having just attended CES that as the heat continues to turn up (think ACA, value-based healthcare models and boomers) the amount of actual change seemed to be slower. There is a call to arms for developing better connections between patient, care providers (docs) and payer systems (insurance) with the ability to analyze and dissect data that will lead to better outcomes, lower costs and healthier lives, one that advances in technology can surely meet.

Recognizing that CES is a consumer electronics show and has been since its inception, the roots of digital health lie in consumer technology with its breakneck innovations cycles, fail fast mindset and lower regulatory requirements. While so many of these technologies are interesting, hip and on-trend, how much impact will they/can they actually have on our healthcare system? How many of these life-changing newfangled gadgets will end up in a landfill in 2-years-time? Why isn’t this technology being harnessed to meet the real and prominent needs we are facing? In fact during a number of sessions within the Digital Health Summit there was a distinct level of frustration from physicians and hospitals that more of these “hip” companies were not committing to providing therapeutics and diagnostic products that could provide benefit to strained systems and staff.

Are these entrepreneurs simply unaware of the magnitude of opportunities that exist in creating a digital healthcare device? Are they intimidated by FDA regulation? Put off by the time and investment required to develop a product that meets FDA standards?

For those with grit, medical device development offers a true frontier seeking true innovation disruptors (others need not apply).

Even today, many devices already on the market or even those we see in development are having a huge impact on the existing system but still work within the current paradigms and do not necessarily challenge them the way that the consumer technology world. I hope that we see more of the big tech companies addressing the real challenges of the industry in the year ahead and on-display at next year’s CES.