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5 trends changing healthcare: digital health at CES 2020

Ben Cox, Head of Digital Design, and Paul Greenhalgh, Director of Design have returned from the Digital Health Summit at CES. Here is what they think will have the biggest impact on drug delivery and medical devices in 2020.

The single biggest topic that emerged for us was the need for, and beginnings of, collaboration and partnership in developing healthcare technologies. Healthcare has valuable patient data and needs the digital technologies from the tech community to capitalise on it for patient and HCP benefit. This is going to require true partnerships – collaboration and sharing agreements – to increase value and provide solutions together.

But this cooperation cannot just exist between healthcare and tech – it needs the potential consumers, regulators and clinicians to come to the table and contribute to the process. It will also require patients to opt into sharing their data; for the benefit of their own healthcare and that of others.

Collaboration is already happening, and these partnership models seem to be more valuable than acquisition. We’ve seen some big names on both sides; the Mayo Clinic is partnering with Google Cloud to host their clinical data analytic platform which is now available publicly to help further drug discovery, GSK have partnered with the Weather Channel, utilising data on upcoming weather events to improve effectiveness of respiratory care solutions. Furthermore, Roche are partnering with Flatiron in a $2bn deal to use sophisticated data sets to predict the outcome of clinical trials in their early stages.

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Another important topic for medical devices covered at CES was the ways in which technology can be used to enable better healthcare outside a hospital setting. Hopefully it will reduce reliance on institutions and improve overall patient experience.

Discussions surrounded the way in which healthcare tech could provide caregivers with information and advice remotely. Facebook spoke about their Preventative Health tool to bridge the gap between communities and expert bodies with clinical wisdom. Walmart Health described leveraging their scale and connection to consumers with 90% of the US population living within 10 miles, and using digital tools to open up access to healthcare for the under insured.

In the UK there has also been a shift in that retail outlets now offer more healthcare services previously provided by the NHS. This frees up more NHS resources and sites to provide crucial care but is increasing the cost of low-level healthcare for the general population.

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Voice emerged again as a key topic at the summit – kicking off discussion on day 1. It’s perhaps not surprising, considering the level of hype evident across the industries represented at CES. Speakers from LifePod and Mayo Clinic discussed the goal of using voice-first technologies throughout the entire healthcare journey to triage, diagnose, treat and educate. This would include voice-enabled medical notes, hospital rooms, prescriptions, and physician access to notes. At home, wellness tech can help to access general medical advice, as well as information on local healthcare services.

There was discussion of the value of moving from reactive to proactive use cases for voice. Rather than a command and response model, an ‘assistant’ initiated conversation could be especially useful for monitoring health and improving adherence; how did you sleep? How are you feeling today? Did you remember to take your meds?

This obviously raises the issues of security and privacy – with a device that’s listening all the time – as well as greater potential repercussions of inaccuracies or misinterpreted information. The challenges of language, tone of voice and accuracy of information are all those that the big names in tech have been grappling with the last few years.

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Sleep again featured heavily at the event, with numerous discussions on its critical effect on health. Lack of sleep was described by CDC as an ‘epidemic for society’ linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and possibly even Alzheimer’s. It’s clear that we need to get the right amount and quality of sleep, but how can tech tackle this ‘epidemic’?

Apart from various headbands and apps which monitor and analyse our sleep patterns, on the show floor we saw smart beds that do the thinking for you; reading your biometrics and making adjustments throughout the night to improve your sleep.

It does make us think that maybe unplugging from technology might help people sleep better.

We heard the term ‘patient-consumer’ a lot more at CES than other industry events. By treating patients as consumers of healthcare – and then focusing on the needs of the consumers in development – we give ourselves a much better chance of reducing barriers to adoption. Patients increasingly have liquid experience expectations from other consumer oriented service interactions. Technology can be used as an enabler, but really it’s not the technology that matters – it’s the outcomes – so the right solution, with whatever complexity of technology, is the one that delivers the best results.

It’s clear that to really improve healthcare outcomes on a large scale across different communities we need to shift from patching people up to preventing illness in the first place. This movement towards prevention as preference to treatment could be significantly aided by digital health.

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