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CES 2022 Gives Healthcare Providers a Glimpse Into the (Possible) Future

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   January 11, 2022

CES 2022, held last week in Las Vegas, offered a dazzling display of new technology, toys, and concepts, some of which could benefit healthcare organizations.

Many healthcare providers may have been too busy with the pandemic to visit Las Vegas this past week for CES 2022, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be interested. What happens in Vegas in this case may not stay in Vegas for long.

The announcement by Abbott Chairman Robert B. Ford of a new line of biometric wearables may have grabbed the headlines, but those devices—like pretty much everything else healthcare-related at CES—are targeted at the consumer-facing health and fitness crowd. It will take a while for providers to find a way to apply them to clinical care.

But there was a strong undercurrent of clinical care in this year's event, encouraged by the Consumer Technology Association's efforts to bridge the gap between consumers and providers. And healthcare executives would be wise to pay attention to the trends coming out of Sin City as they map out their digital health strategies.

In addition, vendors are starting to include the healthcare provider in their pitches. What had once been the realm of health and fitness for the worried consumer is now sprinkled with references to "linking up" or collaborating with doctors and nurses, managing chronic conditions with care providers, and offering clinical-grade services.

The Consumer Market Takes a Shot at RPM

For example, several companies offered mobile and wearable devices aimed at the fast-growing remote patient monitoring market, which is designed to enable consumers and their care providers to monitor health at home and collaborate on care management. While many early devices were focused on health and fitness and chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, the more advanced products are linking them together, often to a telehealth platform, to enable more diverse treatment.

For example, Waltham, MA–based EarlySense unveiled its new InSight+ platform, which officials say was built first on a medical-grade platform and then adapted to consumer use. The platform collects sleep and respiratory data and heart rate, as well as "clinical marker alerts related to heart rate instability and respiratory rate depression," and stores that information in what's called a "Vital Signs Cellular Processing Unit, powered by AT&T IoT."

"With the pandemic still firmly with us, we know we will continue to see an explosion in use cases for patients who want to be cared for at home and for providers who want to incorporate virtual care solutions into their practices in the long-term," company CEO Matt Johnson said in a press release, (which also noted the product is "an investigational device not yet available for sale.")

In displaying at CES, EarlySense and many others are strategically placing themselves in front of the consumer crowd, hoping to gain a groundswell of interest that will convince healthcare organizations to integrate their products into clinical services. The value here is in piquing the public's interest and giving health systems a reason to believe that the devices will push the needle on patient engagement, which has long been an issue for medical-grade wearables.

That's the line being followed by Withings, the France-based developer (with an office in Cambridge, Massachusetts) of a line of smart devices, including watches, sleep monitors, and scales, that has been making a push recently into RPM. The firm, which labels itself "the pioneer of the connected health movement," unveiled an update of its Body Scan smart scale, first introduced in 2009, which now can monitor heart rate, vascular age, and "segmental body composition," including nerve activity.

"With Body Scan, we will turn the morning weigh-in into a sophisticated home health check with access to holistic health data and personal health programs created by medical professionals," company CEO Mathieu Letombe says in a press release. "We will empower our users with the ability to take meaningful actions based on medical-grade data, adding a new dimension to ongoing lifestyle and chronic condition management through the ultimate in-home experience."

Then there's Stevara, a startup based in Charleston, South Carolina, that unveiled BPCorrect. The company, founded by a family physician and general internist, markets its RPM solution as an mHealth app and a clinician portal that can help patients manage their blood pressure with their care providers.

Cara Litvin, MD, one of the company's founders, notes in a press release that BP monitoring isn't always accurate, even in the doctor's office, so the best platform combines home monitoring by the patient with a virtual link to the clinician for care management.  

A few years ago that press release would have focused solely on the home monitoring part, but in today's climate the virtual link to a doctor adds new value to the product.

The Smart Home Movement

Withings is one of a number of companies staking their claim to the smart home movement, part of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), which integrates appliances and other items into the home with sensors and other technology so they can not only be controlled remotely but gather information and send that to an mHealth app or platform for review.

This category has been around for awhile—think smart doorbells, TVs, and thermostats—but is taking off with interest from healthcare, especially organizations that focus on helping seniors and those with disabilities stay at home, as well as those with innovative ideas for the RPM space. They're taking a good look at products like smart refrigerators, which help with diet planning; smart toilets, which can monitor, ahem, daily output; smart doors, which can monitor activity and help track those with memory issues; and smart beds, which can track vital signs and sleep.

For example, there's Caregiver Smart Solutions, a New Jersey–based company that unveiled the Age in Place Core Kit at CES. The telehealth platform uses sensors and AI to track movement and activity, giving caregivers insight into the daily routines of a loves one or patient.

"Designed as a DIY self-installation, smart sensors are placed around the home and monitor habits to understand patterns," company founder Ryan Herd said in an e-mail to the press prior to the conference. "They feed this data to a customizable app that reports critical information including when the person wakes, how often they are eating, taking medicine, and visiting the bathroom, along with movement throughout the home."

One of the bigger names in tech also unveiled a smart home hub. Samsung introduced its SmartThings smart home controller during a virtual keynote, unveiling an 8.4-inch tablet with AI and Bixby voice assistance technology that will "be able to connect to every product within the SmartThings ecosystem." The hub, still very much in development, points to an interest among innovators in creating a telehealth dashboard that will help not only consumers but caregivers manage all devices in one place.

Introducing Artificial Intelligence

The inclusion of AI, or machine learning technology, into consumer-facing technology was a popular trend at CES 2022. Companies in a number of fields, from automotive to entertainment to gaming to healthcare, are advertising the technology in tools that gather, analyze, and "learn from" data, making assumptions that in the past had been handled by humans.

On company looking to use AI to bridge the gap between clinical care and consumer self-care is Cardiomo. At CES 2022, the New York–based company unveiled the Cardiomopatch, billed as an "AI-based holter monitoring system." In an e-mail to the press, the company is basically pitching a medical-grade wearable that has been adapted for consumer use, offering "real-time and remote continuous cardiac monitoring [that] is trusted by clinicians to detect and diagnose many different kinds of irregular heart rhythms" and using AI to process "data in the cloud service helping more accurate disease prevention."

And then there's the Zerema smart pillow, developed by Korea-based Maetel, which integrates AI into a pillow to adjust height and control snoring. According to an e-mail sent to the press prior to CES, the user can monitor sleep patterns through an mHealth app.

Several companies displayed robots this year, with functions that range from working in restaurants and hotels to performing basic household chores to helping people manage their medications, connect with family, friends, and caregivers and even playing games.

Wearables Seize the Day

But for all the talk of platforms and integration, CES 2022 was still all about the technology and toys for the consumer. And there were plenty of wearables to choose from.

A few companies took note of Oura's success to introduce smart rings. California-based Movano, for instance, unveiled the Movano Ring and accompanying mHealth app, which collects biometric data and is designed to help women "help you make connections between cause and effect and understand the correlation between how you feel and various areas of your health." France-based Circular, meanwhile, showcased its Smart Ring, which "focuses on how the user responds to their activities, daily choices, and rhythms and provides personalized recommendations based on the data it gathers rather than just providing metrics and raw data graphs."

Among hundreds, if not thousands, of others displaying their wares, in person or virtually, were the following:

  • Cubtale, out of Turkey, offers a care coordination platform aimed at tracking an infant's daily care needs, from breastfeeding to medication management to sleep management, through small smart buttons (cubs) that capture data for parents, caregivers, and pediatricians.
  • Human Touch, a California-based developer of massage chairs, unveiled a new product line that includes access to a "virtual therapist" through voice commands for "a tailored therapeutic experience."
  • Elidah, out of Connecticut, introduced the Elitone, a digital therapeutic device aimed at helping women living with pelvic floor disorders with their exercises.
  • Brush, out of France, displayed the Y-Brush, a mouthpiece-shaped electric toothbrush designed to clean one's teeth in 10 seconds flat.
  • Rockley Photonics, based in California, displayed an array of photonics-based "clinic on the wrist" sensors that attach to the skin and capture a wide range of data, including heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, blood oxygen, alcohol, lactate and glucose indicators, and core body temperature.
  • The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), based in Taiwan, displayed several innovative devices, including an mHealth device that attaches to a dog's collar and monitors heart rate, respiration, and activity; and a smart mirror that helps its user analyze the strength of specific muscle groups, posture, flexibility, endurance, and balance.
  • Powercast, out of Pittsburgh, has developed flexible wearables that can be created with a 3D printer and used to track gait, muscle performance, and temperature.
  • NuraLogix, based in Toronto, unveiled the Aunra Web, a browser-based version of its Affective AI software, which can track "more than 30 health measurements from just a 30-second video selfie."
  • iNNOVA, a startup out of Italy, unveiled the CheckMED, an RPM platform that includes wearables, an mHealth app, and a telehealth platform and allows caregivers to remotely manage the health of a patient or loved one.
  • Advanced Human Imaging, based in Australia, showcased FaceScan, a smartphone scanning technology that examines blood flow beneath the skin to measure heart rate and blood pressure, as well as DermaScan, which can detect more than 500 skin conditions, and BodyScan, which can monitor changes to one's body, fat loss, and muscle gain.
  • Tover, out of Holland, unveiled the Tovertafel, or "Tover Magic Table," a projection-based game system that can be used on any surface and is designed to help seniors and patients living with dementia and intellectual disabilities strengthen their cognitive abilities "in a fun and playful way."
  • RENPHO, a company based in both the U.S. and UK, offers a line of smart bikes and treadmills enhanced with AI technology, enabling the user to monitor health data and design exercises that target specific health concerns.
  • Virility Medical, out of Israel, showcased a wearable patch designed to help men with premature ejaculation, a common sexual dysfunction.

“With the pandemic still firmly with us, we know we will continue to see an explosion in use cases for patients who want to be cared for at home and for providers who want to incorporate virtual care solutions into their practices in the long-term.”

Eric Wicklund is the Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Digital health has been gradually taking over more and more floor space at CES, as the consumer technology industry takes a liking to healthcare.
  • This year's event, which included the first-ever healthcare keynote, touched on several interesting trends, including wearables, AI, remote patient monitoring, and digital therapeutics.
  • Vendors are also teasing out integrations with healthcare providers as they try to bridge the gap between consumer-facing and clinical-friendly.


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