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Are We In a Digital Health Bubble?

Posted on January 7, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I walked through the exhibit hall at CES, I must admit that I was extremely overwhelmed by the number of digital health options that were on display. Certainly the size and grandeur of the booths was off the charts. Take a quick look at part of the iFit booth:
Digital Health at CES
Yes, that is 4 girls walking on treadmills on a vaulted stage. Of course, this was maybe 1/3 of their booth. Behind me they had a massive closed room and another girl walking on a different treadmill. Plus, upon closer inspection you might also notice that they have a bed on the vaulted stage and cloth coming down from the ceiling. I think they officially call that cloth “silks.” While I didn’t see it, you can tell that they’re going to have a Cirque du Soleil performer working the silks to attract attention to their booth. For those keeping track at home, there is a great sleep sensor from EarlySense on the bed.

While many might consider much of this absurd. The show and staging doesn’t really bother me too much. Since I organize the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference, I understand how hard it is to stand out at a conference. No doubt this booth left an impression. iFit even got exposure in this blog post because of it. We could argue if it was a good investment or not, but that’s a different story.

All I could think about as I walked through the incredible number of digital health solutions at CES was “Not all of these can survive.

Of course, many in the startup world would say that 90% of startups fail and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many of the companies exhibiting at CES will disappear. That’s true, but I never felt like this in past years. In past years at CES it felt like a number of players with some overlap and some competitive pressures, but that there was plenty of pie for everyone. This year has me wondering if that’s still the case.

As I mentioned, I’m hoping to publish a list of all the various health tracking devices. I realized that this going to take a lot of work. I’m still planning to work on it, but it’s going to take some time to do it right. One person I talked to said that there are about 700 health tracking devices out there. Of course, the real challenge is that 500 of them still don’t actually deliver (ie. they haven’t gone to market with a product or they can’t deliver the results they say they can deliver). Even 200 legitimate companies makes for a really competitive environment where people still talk about Fitbit and the Apple Watch and don’t know many of the others.

Let me be clear though. I think there’s a ton of tremendous innovation happening in the digital health space. From a consumer perspective all of this competition (bubble if you will) is great! Competition will push vendors to take what they’re doing to a new level. We’ll have a ton of amazing discoveries that will ripple through all of these companies. This is all great and will work out well for consumers and healthcare.

Plus, on the fringes you find some people doing unique things. The problem is that many of those companies have a hard time being heard with all of the other companies making so much noise. Sometimes I’m talking literal noise. I think it was the Under Armour booth that felt like they were a Las Vegas night club. It made it a lot of fun to visit and certainly attracted attention. I just wouldn’t want to be exhibiting at the booth next to them.

Wearables Explosion at CES 2015

Posted on January 8, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Each year I’ve been impressed by the growth of Digital Health at CES. However, this year has blown me away far more than any year before. In previous years, the health presence was so small that it was almost indistinguishable. In fact, it was so small that it was really easy for it to double and triple in size. Now that it’s gotten much bigger, it’s still doubling in size and the impact is even greater.

The space for Digital Health takes up a very large portion of the Sands Convention Center (Venetian Hotel) this year and that’s saying something for how large it’s really become. Plus, many of the booths were massive in scale. That’s not something we’d really seen at previous CES conferences in the Digital Health space.

Here’s one example of the massive iFit booth:
Wearable Fitness Booth at CES 2015

Yes, there’s basically a full stage for their booth with half a dozen people dancing and working out at their booth. Plus, after the dance performance, they are paying other models (I guess that’s what you’d call them) to work out on the equipment as well. It was quite the spectacle and the picture barely does it justice. (UPDATE: You can also check out this video of the Digital Health space at CES I did.)

In my initial CES Observations post on EMR and HIPAA, I commented on the number of new wearables, the beginning of ambient sensors with wearables, and the variety of new “jewelry” like wearables. Yes, there was a Swarovski jewelry booth right next to the Misfit booth.

On the other side of the equation were booth like the HP Matters booth:
HP Healthcare Booth at CES 2015

They had three images which talk about Healthcare in a Box (telemedicine), Data Analytics is Not Just a Buzzword, and Medical 3D Printing Comes of Age. I’m not sure how many people would have thought HP for any of these three areas.

I also found it really great that CES put the Health & Wellness, Digital Health and Fitness, Robotics, and 3D printing areas all right next to each other. No doubt there are a bunch of interesting robotic and 3D printing applications for healthcare.

While I’ve started to see a maturing of the devices and sensors at CES, I’m still waiting for a breakthrough company that does something powerful with all of this new found data. There are still a few edge cases where a Fitbit will help you lose weight by just encouraging you to reach a 10k step goal. Or the calorie counting app which makes you more aware of the food you’re eating. Those have their place in the current ecosystem, but that’s not really leveraging the data into a seamless change for people’s lives. In many ways, we needed all these sensors to mature to the point that we can innovate on top of all that data. Hopefully we’ll see more of it next year.

I did see one partial example of that this year. Fitbug has put together these Kiqplan programs. They’re essentially 12 week programs that try and address real problems that people are trying to solve: Slim + Trim, Beer Belly Blaster, Healthy Baby Bump, and Goodbye Baby Bump. In many ways this is just packaging, but I believe we need this type of packaging in order to attract people to using it. No doubt this is a simple first evolution, but I’d like to see where it goes.

No doubt wearables that relate to health and fitness have exploded at CES. However, I think we’re still just at the very beginning of seeing the amazing results from these wearable devices. The foundation is laid. Now we need to put up some walls and make it look nice.