CES: Weird and Wonderful Wearables Spur Personalized Healthcare Innovation

The consumerization of healthcare is happening before our own eyes. It began with activity trackers (e.g., Fitbit) and apps (e.g., Microsoft Health) that provided consumers with actionable insights to improve overall health. At last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we saw a new batch of healthcare-centric products poised to provide consumers with vital information to improve their overall health. Some of these devices, at first glance, are quite interesting (smart hearing aids), while others border on the bizarre (fat burn breathalyzers).

Still, it's an exciting time in healthcare, and the wearables unveiled at CES are rife with innovation and ingenuity. Below is a sample of some of the cool new gadgets announced last week, along with a couple that leave me scratching my head:

  • The LiNX 2 – This second-generation smart hearing aid from ReSound allows wearers to control hearing settings via an iPhone app. It can be connected with an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch via Bluetooth. Though not exactly cheap – pricing ranges from $1,600 to $2,200 – these devices take hearing aids into a new technological realm.
  • Thermo – Built by Withings, this is a smart temporal thermometer that utilizes sensor technology to record accurate body temperature with a simple placement on one’s forehead. This device allows users to store temperatures over time and hold on to real-time records that could become beneficial to a healthcare provider when making diagnoses.
  • Levl – Still needing FDA approval, this device, made by the Seattle startup of the same name, is essentially a breathalyzer that measures acetone in one’s breath to determine how much fat someone is burning. From this a user can see if their exercise/diet methods are going according to plan.
  • Skulpt Chisel – Designed by Skulpt, this device also utilizes sensors, which are placed on muscle groups to calculate body/fat percentages. I agree with what media reports are saying about it – once we have that information, what do we do with it?
  • ReliefBand – This wearable is an FDA-cleared device designed by ReliefBand Technologies to treat nausea associated with motion and morning sickness. The device stimulates the median nerve on the wrist with programmed pulses to block nausea. It’s perfect for expecting mothers.

Regardless of individual perceptions about new healthcare technologies coming to market, the take-away from CES is that there is a continuous stream of new innovations and healthcare wearables entering the public sphere on an ongoing basis. As population health management gains momentum, and patient data is aggregated across multiple health information technology resources, these devices will become a more important component in personalized healthcare.

Damon Auer, Vice President, Health and Life Sciences for Tribridge, is a 20-year technology and consulting services executive specializing in helping health and life sciences organizations achieve business performance improvements. He oversees projects ranging from cloud-based Care Coordination and Electronic Medical Records systems implementations to process and systems integration consulting for healthcare delivery, pharmaceutical and medical device organizations.

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