The following is a guest contributed post by Dr. Nick van Terheyden, Chief Medical Information Officer for Nuance.
As a physician and a CMIO, I’m forever seeking the latest technology offerings that might help us solve some of the very complex problems that exist in healthcare. With that goal in mind, I set out across the CES 2015 showroom floor, seeking the best in health innovation.
While it was interesting to see all the fitness and consumer health apps, I found myself spending extra time looking at non-healthcare related technologies, drawn in one direction or the other based on the “oohs” and “ahhs” of crowds marveling at incredible and unfettered innovation. I made countless stops along the way, and spoke to many different creators about the potential healthcare implications of their products, and I quickly realized that the future of health IT innovation will be a combination of various consumer technologies that are carefully sutured together.
Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHCT)
The interconnectivity of devices has been a growing trend in the consumer world, but it is one that has not really made its foray into healthcare. When it does, the potential will be astounding. I spoke with La Crosse Technology, which collects data from weather systems, such as temperature, humidity, etc. They have developed the ability to leverage this data to adjust home heating and cooling systems according to the current weather conditions. Practical and money-saving for sure, but it is easy to extrapolate the benefits of such technology to patient consumers.
Imagine the impact this could have for someone suffering from chronic respiratory issues or severe asthma: they could receive guidance on what is going on outside and perhaps take extra medication to cope with poor air quality. Additionally, such data could be used to send important reminders to help patients better cope with their medical issues, for instance, a virtual assistant that says “Heavy snow is on the way for the next three days, and I noticed your drug supply was down to two days, you should refill today so you don’t run out while the weather is bad and traveling is difficult.”
I also met with Butterfleye, a company that develops in-home monitoring systems. Although there were many players in the home-monitoring space, I found this one compelling as it was easy to install and designed to learn, adapting to daily occurrences and routines as opposed to being programed. Imagine the value of setting this device up in the home of an elderly patient or loved one and using it not for security purposes, but for peace-of-mind, to make sure there is activity and movement and to learn of a fall or worsening condition more quickly. Because the system is able to learn, it can discern the difference between a dog or cat roaming about the house and a person, so if there was an incident, a pet won’t “trick” the system into thinking the individual is actually walking about the room. While personal alerts are helpful if the individual is conscious and is wearing a medical alert device, a system such as this could help identify more severe life-threatening health conditions, and, with an intelligent virtual assistant, could ask residents if they are okay and call for help, if they get a negative or no response.
A Modern-day Techie Odysseus
Those familiar with the story of Odysseus know that he spent seven years sailing the seas trying to return to his homeland, Ithaca. What started out as a point A to point B trip, became a journey that forced him to see things differently. He was drawn in by all sorts of alluring (and not so alluring) options along the way, and when he finally returned home, he did so a wiser man. Meandering through the labyrinth-like CES showroom floor, I saw everything from robots that attach to windows and clean the outside, to alluring bionic sensor technology that allows users to control devices via subtle muscle movement from behind their ears. But the best thing about the wandering the show is that it makes you see things differently, helps you think about things in a new way. It’s about pushing the limits, finding new use cases, new possible technology partnerships to create an even more robust, more powerful solution to address what people need.
Healthcare impacts many different types of people, from patients and clinicians, to administrators, coders and compliance officers— just to name a few. The common denominator, regardless of who you are, is that we all seek the best possible health outcomes. Having the opportunity to not only see, but experience, all different types of technology with untapped healthcare potential was incredible. It wasn’t about finding the health-specific applications and devices that would magically solve any one challenge, but about seeing the copious options available to consumers en masse, and talking with innovators about the potential cross-over and blending of technologies to advance healthcare today and in the future.