Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

mHealth at CES 2016: Will It Be Enough to Attract Healthcare?

The world's largest consumer electronics show, now little more than a week away, promises exciting new developments in wearables and health and fitness. But is there enough there to make providers take notice?

With the world’s largest consumer electronics show less than two weeks away, mHealth advocates are keeping an eye on products that may close the loop between consumers and their doctors.

Korea’s Samsung Electronics jumped the gun on CES 2016 with the unveiling of an advanced system logic chip for consumer-facing wearables. The so-called Bio-Processor is designed to measure body fat, heart rate, heart rhythm, skin temperature, stress level and skeletal muscle mass without the need for external processing parts.

The tiny processor – about one-fourth the size of previous chips – will be displayed at CES 2016 in Las Vegas in a variety of wearables, including wristbands, strap-n devices and patches. Its small size and ability to measure capture several different discrete biometric readings at once (or in any combination) could spur the development of new wearables that might catch the eye of healthcare providers looking for something that measures more than just a user’s steps or calories.

Indeed, the miniaturization of processors and the development of more sophisticated sensors might finally give rise to wearables that stand out for not standing out - a key component of the long-standing consumer engagement riddle. Integrated into clothing, patches or other devices that fit unobtrusively into a consumer’s lifestyle, and able to gather more and more accurate physiological data, they could attract interest from providers and health systems looking to improve their remote patient monitoring programs.   

That concept will be in the spotlight – quite literally – at CES 2016, where the amount of show floor space devotes to wearable technology has quadrupled and the number of exhibitors has tripled (not including those exhibiting in the separate health and fitness area). There’s even a wearable fashion show, now in its sixth year and attracting everyone from Google to fashion designer Donna Karan.

"We're way past spandex," Robin Raskin, CEO of Living in Digital Times, the company that is putting on the fashion show, told C|net. Added Amanda Parkes, chief of technology and research for Manufacture New York, "We're really trying to push toward fashion-first wearables.”

“That's the challenge Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies are trying to tackle,” C|net’s Richard Nieva writes. “Google, with its Android Wear software for wearables, has partnered with traditional watchmakers including Tag Heuer and Fossil. Apple has teamed up with high-end boutiques like French luxury brand Hermes to make bands for the Apple Watch. Chipmaker Intel infiltrated New York fashion week in September, teaming up with women's fashion label Chromat to show off smart bras and dresses. Why? Intel has the technology part down, but ‘it would be naive to think we were the best fashion designers,’ said Steve Holmes, vice president of Intel's Smart Device Innovation group.”

All this isn’t to say that consumer-facing wearables will catch on in healthcare circles just yet – most providers are still holding the FitBits and other wearables at arm’s length and declaring they don’t want to be inundated with data they can’t use. But buoyed by platforms like Apple’s HealthKit and Qualcomm’s 2net, they’re finding that wearables and other devices can be used to improve engagement and even affect clinical outcomes if designed properly.

They may not want to brave the 100,000+ visitors expected to inundate Las Vegas during CES 2016, but healthcare providers and mHealth advocates will be keeping an eye on what happens at the show. Because that next hot wearable – be it a shirt, a belt, a headband or a piece of jewelry – might be just what the doctor would want to order next.

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