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CES Makes a Healthcare Splash

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, January 15, 2013

A final wild story came from a guy I met in a hallway. Researchers at MIT have demonstrated that they can amplify motion in a video using variations in the frequency of color changes in a sequence of video frames, to quote their words. Users can specify the frequency range and degree of amplification desired. The technique works best for changes which are regular and re-occurring, such as heartbeats.

This technique can also be used to amplify changes that occur only once if the variation is wide enough. The system was originally intended to amplify changes in color, but turned out to be so sensitive in terms of motion amplification that the researchers reworked it to include the motion enhancement aspects.

Bottom line: video of people's facial features or the subtle pulsations of veins and arteries on their necks, collected from cameras on tablets, might be relevant in assessing changes in Grandma's health—without requiring a sensor, a patch, a temporary tattoo, or even a phone, just a camera.

Technology is hurtling toward healthcare at increasing speed. My challenge is to tell the stories of these innovations to quickly disrupt existing care systems and move the needle on healthcare costs.

Also at CES, I met Alan Greene, MD, chief medical officer of Scanadu, which is developing a noninvasive vital sign reader, akin to some of the patches that are making their way onto the market. Green demonstrated it to me by simply holding it to the temple of his head for a few seconds. But Scanadu has chosen to keep its product off the market until they can receive FDA clearance for use as a medical device.

That takes guts—and investors with lots of patience. There already are dozens of companies delivering non-FDA-approved, minimally tested gadgets with all sorts of health-improving claims. Quick bucks are being made, consumers will be angered, and probably new controlling legislation will at least be introduced and possibly passed.

But even at CES, in the heart of get-lucky, 24-hour Las Vegas, some healthcare technology innovators are waiting for the sure thing, and the right data, to really move the needle.


Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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