My First Look at Digital Health at CES

Posted on January 5, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Last night was the official press kick off of CES (Use to be called the Consumer Electronics Show) with a press only event called CES Unveiled. In past years CES Unveiled has been somewhat of a disappointment. Too crowded. Little food. Not very many interesting companies. However, you’d find 1 or 2 companies that really caught your eye and it was also good to see generally what some of the trends of the industry were.

This year felt different. The variety of interesting technologies that were on display was quite exciting. Here’s some mostly healthcare related observations from CES Unveiled.

The number of healthcare wearable copycats is exploding. I’ll be following up on this when I hit the full show floor. I’m going to do my best to make a list of all the companies that are doing health wearables at CES and which ones they’re doing. Needless to say, you’re going to have a lot of choices the next time you want to buy a fitness watch, blood pressure cuff, ekg, connected scale, etc. If I’ve already seen this proliferation at CES Unveiled (which has like 100 companies) I can only imagine how many more there will be on the CES show floor. Plus, there’s at least a few companies talking about invisibles which track the same as wearables but you don’t wear them. More on those later.

The digital health solutions I found are very international. I was impressed by the large number of international players that were developing digital health solutions. I saw solutions coming from China, Netherlands, France, and Italy to name a few. It makes sense that health matters around the world. I just hadn’t seen all these international players in the digital health space at past CES. Some of them haven’t even thought about the US market. However, they’re considering it in the future.

I also came across a smart desk solution from Humanscale that shows promise for employee wellness. I’ll be exploring these solutions more, but they have a sit-stand desk and sensors that track how long you’re sitting or standing and have created software to encourage you to move around more if you’re not moving enough. They even have employer dashboards that help a company evaluate their employee’s wellness from an ergonomic standpoint.

The home is being digitized. A simple example of this is the ICON Home Panel. Imagine having an iPad or Android device on your wall. That’s basically what they’ve done. They’ve started with having it control the temperature of your house the way your current temperature gauge can do, but now that you have a full Android device on the wall, it opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

My family got an Amazon Echo for Christmas this year and that’s opened my eyes to the future. If you haven’t seen or used the Amazon Echo, it’s basically a voice controlled virtual assistant. Kind of like Siri for your home. Now imagine that technology available in the Android home panel I just talked about. Pretty powerful stuff.

What does a smart panel and Amazon echo have to do with healthcare? It’s all part of the mesh of connections that will be needed to help you monitor and improve your health. Amazon Echo already has what they call the 7 minute workout. You just say “Alexa, start my 7 minute workout” and the Amazon Echo will start walking you through a workout. Think about the Humanscale sensors mentioned above. Could the wall mounted “brain” connect with sensors around your house to let you know that you’ve been in front of the TV for 4 hours? I don’t see it shouting out at you to get off the couch, but there could be ways to use this data to motivate you to be more healthy.

From a security and privacy perspective, I was really impressed by the Qkey. In many cases, CES Unveiled was a progression of existing technologies. However, I’d never seen anything like Qkey. The Qkey is basically a key size device that you can plug into any computer. You can then run a web browser (one they developed) and securely surf the internet. It also has a number of other interesting security features like securing storing your credit card info so that you don’t have to hit any keystrokes. Not only is that convenient, but it makes it so keyloggers can’t capture your credit card info either. I’m planning to stop by their booth and get one that I can use. So, I’ll report back on it more later.

The one challenge with the Qkey for health care is that it runs a custom web browser. I’d be interested to know if it works with the web based EHR out there or not. However, that doesn’t really matter since you can’t run any of the client server applications like Cerner, Epic, or MEDITECH on it. So, it’s not really an option for a large portion of healthcare. From a patient perspective, it could be a great way to access their health info. I love that Qkey is looking at security and privacy from a very different perspective though.

There’s a few of the things I saw that caught my eye. Along with these there was an interesting mix of drones, 3D printers, Virtual Reality (VR), accessories, and new input devices. Some of the new input devices get me excited. Unfortunately, they’re all focused on things like gaming and music right now. However, that tech will no doubt leak over into all of our computer interfaces in the future.