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5 Takeaways from CES for Healthcare Executives

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   January 17, 2024

With competition from disruptors increasing and the industry under pressure to make healthcare more convenient and less expensive, health system leaders need to take CES seriously. Here are a few takeaways from the recent event

As CES 2024 slides into the rear-view mirror, here are some of the key takeaways for health system executives who either attended the show or kept track of the goings-on from a distance.

Keeping the Consumer in the Loop

CES is all about the consumer experience, a strategy that many healthcare organizations have been slow to embrace. But with HCAHPS scores and Joint Commission reviews giving more weight to the consumer experience, the emphasis for healthcare leaders is not only in improving consumer engagement but creating a dynamic that allows providers and patients to work together on care management.

(Of course, one of the enduring ironies of healthcare conferences is that while the patient is becoming more of an active participant in the industry, very few patients are actually invited to these conferences.)

CES does have the advantage in that everything is geared toward the consumer, so all the technologies on display—in the area designated for digital health as well as in all the other halls—are designed to be sold to the consumer. In digital health, that means creating a marketable product that a consumer will be interested in buying and using, which again isn’t a strong point of clinical grade devices or platforms. In fact, the healthcare industry has long struggled to bridge that gap between consumer-friendly and clinically relevant technology.

But the stakes are higher now, thanks to Amazon, Walmart, Apple, Walgreens, and others who are taking the consumer experience in other industries (like retail, banking, and travel) and applying lessons learned to healthcare. Health system executives need to pay attention to those trends and take a look at wearables, consumer-facing apps, smart home technology, and other products that can allow them to make a connection with their patients and improve care.

Creating a Connected Health Experience

Smart technology was all the rage at CES, from toilets and showers to beds and pillows to refrigerators and ovens to, believe it or not, grills, patio furniture and fireplaces, birdhouses, exercise equipment, and beer-making and bartending machines (thankfully, sex technology seemed to be on the way out this year). In short, data is king, and anything that can gather data on the user experience and use that data to make the experience better is in play.

No more so than in healthcare, where doctors and nurses are coordinating and managing more care based on data outside the electronic health record. The shift away from episodic care and toward value-based care means that providers (and payers) are interested in the entire patient journey, and health and wellness are part of that ecosystem. They need to collect data from the patient’s everyday life and experiences, from the home to the office to the school to the car and everywhere in between.

Health system executives looking at this shifting landscape need to understand not only the technology available for gathering and disseminating data but the platforms needed to connect those disparate devices and points. This puts an emphasis on infrastructure management and interoperability. It’s nice to have a bed and a toilet that can tell you how a person is sleeping and, ahem, pooping, but is that data being transmitted seamlessly back to doctors who can use it to improve care?

Homing in on … the Home

One of the bigger themes in healthcare is the shift from the hospital to the home, or the understanding that healthcare can be delivered in locations outside the traditional care setting  At CES, the focus was on technology and smart home products that could help consumers improve their health and wellness.

At the Digital Health Summit, the focus shifted to how a tech-enabled home could help healthcare providers improve monitoring and care delivery. That might include the Hospital at Home strategy, in  which health systems provide both in-person and virtual care at home for patients who would otherwise be in a hospital. But it also offers opportunities for health systems to gather and use data from the home setting to manage and coordinate care, working with consumers to prevent serious health issues from cropping up.

The key is in understanding what the consumer wants out of healthcare.

“It’s life care,” Leslie Saxon, MD, executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing and a professor of medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, said during a panel discussion on healthcare in the home. “Traditional medical care [providers] have to believe that the patient is the consumer. … And the people who are going to drive this market are the patients.”

All in on AI

As with every other conference over the past year, AI was a part of almost every conversation and panel presentation at CES.

A lot of the talk in the digital health space centered on how the technology could make things easier for consumers to access healthcare services. Integrating AI tools into the back end can help match consumers to the right resources, selecting the appropriate care providers and locations, while also speeding up the registration and insurance/payment processes. AI has the ability to sort through large amounts of data, speeding up the process and taking pressure off nurses and other office staff.

The technology will be particularly helpful in gathering and sorting data coming from devices and other locations outside the healthcare setting. Roughly 80% of that data is unstructured, and needs a little coaxing to be able to fit into the medical record, where providers can use it to improve care pathways.

“I think the greatest advance that we are going to see in the next few years is the ability to take unstructured data and use it,” Lee Schwamm, MD, SVP and chief digital health officer at the Yale New Haven System and associate dean of digital strategy and transformation at the Yake School of Medicine, said during a panel on AI and the future of healthcare.

Simplicity Matters

Above all else, CES was about consumer convenience, and the key to digital health success will lie in making healthcare access as convenient as possible for consumers. That means embracing tech tools and platforms that make the process intuitive.

“Healthcare is more confusing, more complex, and more costly than ever before,” Glen Tullman, the former Allscripts executive who launched a digital health startup focused on chronic care management and now fronts Transcarent, said during a closing session with billionaire businessman Mark Cuban.

That’s why disruptors like Amazon, Walgreens, and Cuban’s own Cost Plus Drug Company are drawing consumers away from traditional healthcare organizations amid what some are calling the “battle for primary care.” They’re cutting through the complexity and using technology to give consumers what they want in an easy format.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


More than 130,000 people swarmed into Las Vegas last week for CES 2024, the annul showcase of the latest in consumer electronics

The fastest growing segment of that event is the Digital Health Summit, where healthcare executives and others discussed how to use consumer technology to improve care delivery and management and reduce costs

Health systems and hospitals need to focus on the consumer experience, or they’ll lose patients to other organizations and disruptors offering more convenient, less costly care

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