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5 Hot Healthcare Ideas from SXSW

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, March 11, 2014

The SXSW conference demonstrates that technology and innovation are leading the way in healthcare while regulators struggle to keep up. Everyone is trying to answer one question: "Who provides care, and how?"

After barely recovering from HIMSS, I hustled down to Austin, Texas this past weekend to take a look at healthcare IT at South by Southwest Interactive. I hadn't been to this conference since 2012, and in those two years the health track moved from a venue across town to the Hilton right across the street from the main convention center.

Seating capacity is up, and so is attendance, with many sessions near full capacity. Here are my five biggest takeaways:

1. Wearables are hot.

A session sponsored by Rock Health an incubator for healthcare technology startups, created a line around the block that made some think that Daft Punk was making a musical appearance. The first 100 attendees received a wearable Misfit Shine physical activity monitor, and the session itself generated plenty of tweets.

In general, however, wearables aren't very wearable, or fashionable, yet.

The "geek factor" of having a conspicuous health sensor in the form of a wristband isn't cracking the fashion barrier yet. These devices need to get a lot smaller and sleeker before they break into widespread acceptance. Also, many devices don't like being wet in the shower or at the pool, and designers have to overcome that limitation (Misfit apparently has).

Fitness buffs too, are able to overlook some of these limitations, but the general public is going to wait another generation or two, at least. For now, the best consumer healthcare apps rely on data collected by mobile phones, not just wearable sensors.

And there's reason to believe that there's a place for wearables in the healthcare workplace.

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