The Best of Digital Health at CES 2019

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Product Creation Studio is pleased to bring you exclusive, on-going content by Heather Thompson, an industry expert and former editor for Medical Design & Outsourcing, as well as MD+DI magazine.  With 15 years of experience covering medical technologies and FDA regulations, Heather specializes in delivering the latest trends and news in the medical device industry. 

Winning digital health trends at the Consumer Electronics Show last week aimed for a sweet spot between invisible and essential.

Digital health is casting a wider net than ever before, and nowhere is this more apparent than at CES 2019, which took place last week in Las Vegas. The categories of health and wellness are mixing with consumer gadgets in ways we never thought. The medical devices at CES employ the latest in AI and machine learning software, and sensor technologies. Many of the products that we thought worthy of discussion are home healthcare wearables that offer integration with smart home and phone technologies.  

A consumer-driven approach to product design and data management seeks to make technology both unnoticeable and indispensable. At their core, the technologies we chose to review in this article are in service of seamless adoption and value. They drive home the idea that technology should be nearly invisible, even as it changes lives. They also emphasize data management, giving users only the information needed to make better decisions, while the rest is automatic

Whole Home Health

From baby pulse monitors to sperm counters, home health is getting very specific—but it is also becoming more holistic. Indeed the very notion of “home health” expands into “home wellness” with Delos’ DARWIN Home Wellness Intelligence Network. Based on seven years of research with leading experts and institutions, the company seeks to turn homes into the catalyst for enhanced health, well-being and performance. By combining software, wellness algorithms and sensor technologies, DARWIN can monitor air quality, water filtration, manage circadian lighting systems, and minimize disturbances during sleep to promote restful nights. DARWIN integrates into existing smart home and smart assistant platforms (e.g., Alexa, Google Home), or can stand alone when smart home technology is not installed. 

Heart Wearables

In cardiac care, companies such as AliveCor, Omron, and Apple are embedding EKGs in watches and other wearables. Withings is debuting a three-in-one device that can track blood pressure, monitor valve health, and check for atrial fibrillation.

And wrist-worn devices aren’t the only ways to tackle cardiology and other vitals monitoring at home. A cotton vest is set to predict heart attacks for at-risk people. Chronolife is a machine washable vest that aims to keep tabs on six vital stats in real time, and combined with machine learning, can predict the likelihood of an oncoming heart attack. The vest doesn't require internet connection —data are stored on a secure cloud service. It also doesn't require any charging and sensors don't need to be removed in the wash.  

Diabetes Devices

Several technology companies have introduced digital products to improve control of type 2 diabetes. GlucoseZone has offered its digitally guided exercise program to help diabetes patients lose weight, lower blood sugar, and reduce or eliminate the need for medication. The program also uses live digital chats with coaches to deliver customized workouts and nutrition advice.

Healthcare behemoth, Abbott hosted a lunch to showcase FreeStyle Libre. As we’ve discussed before, this game changing product is designed to replace finger-prick testing and monitoring systems. It features a small sensor that is worn on the arm for up to 2 weeks. The device provides real-time glucose levels, an eight-hour history, and glucose level predictions to both patients and care givers.

Pain Points 

The opportunity for a digital solution to pain is clearly a priority. A special session “The Solution to the Opioid Crisis No One Is Talking About” covered neuromodulation as an alternative to pain management. Speakers from Nevro, Abbott, Boston Scientific, and Medtronic discussed the potential of neuromodulation as a platform for the treatment of chronic pain. Neuromodulation can treat pain by electrically stimulating the nervous system and minimizing the need for opioids. For example, Nevro’s SENZA-RCT combines high frequency (10 kHz) with a unique waveform and a specific treatment algorithm to relieve neuropathic pain in the legs and back.

Tivic Health demonstrated its ClearUP Sinus Pain Relief – a bioelectronic treatment for sinus pain. ClearUP offers a new way to manage sinus pain. A small, handheld device is designed to glide ClearUP along the cheek, nose and brow bone. It locates areas of skin where tiny electrical waveforms can pass easily and stimulates nerves to relieve sinus pain. FDA clearance is pending.

Wearable pain relief is also on trend this year. NeuroMetrix’s Quell device was named a CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree. Quell 2.0 Wearable Pain Relief Technology is an FDA cleared, over-the-counter wearable therapeutic device for chronic pain. It harnesses neurotechnology in a wearable format and app for users to personalize and control therapy while tracking pain and relevant health metrics. Quell stimulates sensory nerves in the calf, which are carried to the brain. The pulses trigger a natural response to block pain signals.  

Sport Tech

AI and wearable devices will play a role in keeping athletes healthier and more competitive in the near future. Several companies are employing Movesense motion sensing technology. For example, Morph Wear is a wearable device that helps track swimmer’s analytics. It was developed to help swimmers see when they are over or under performing. The company says it can track motion, acceleration and orientation. Likewise, Konect Sports uses Movesense technology in its 3D motion sensor to analyze an athletes form, speed and reaction time.  

Personal Beauty

Clean, natural, and “wellness”-oriented beauty products are becoming a high-value market. And big names in makeup and skin care took it to the next level at CES. Mega beauty retailer L’Oreal, was exhibiting a wearable sensor that measures skin pH levels via an app. The product uses a microfluidic platform and soft wearable sensors to determine the likelihood of acne, dryness, or rosacea.  Up until now, such information has only been available in a dermatologist’s office. The information can help users customize skin care.

 Meanwhile, Oral-B is touting a toothbrush that uses AI to monitor brushing habits and offer users’ customized advice. The Oral-B GENIUS X with Artificial Intelligence monitors time spent, missed areas, and pressure applied to help users brush more effectively and safely.  

Adding digital technology to beauty helps to improve customization quickly. For example, it allows Neutrogena to 3D-print custom face masks based on measurements taken from attendees’ skin at the show. The beauty giant will use  the Skin360 that it introduced last year with a new iOS app, MaskiD, to create an accurate assessment of the users’ skin. Skin360 uses the TrueDepth camera in the iPhone X, XS, and XR to take a 3D image of a user’s face, then suggests appropriate skin treatments, such as sunblock, retinol, or hyaluronic acid. Paired with MaskiD, a “while you wait” mask is printed with Neutrogena beauty products.

Custom Health

CES is often thought of as an event to indicate where an industry is going. It is worth noting that the Digital Health Summit is celebrating its 10th year at CES. Healthcare experts have long discussed the need to tap into consumer technologies to make healthcare more accurate and accessible. The product offerings at CES reveal an emphasis on healthcare working in tandem with smart consumer gadgets, employing AI and machine learning, and tapping into the latest in sensor technology. It’s clear that digital health care products are starting to deliver on their promises to make healthcare more personal and more mobile.