CES 2012 and the Future of Health Tech

If you spend any time on the internet (which you must, since you’re reading this post) and haven’t heard about CES 2012, you must be living under a rock. The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, which wrapped up last week in Las Vegas, has been the talk of the World Wide Web for the past two weeks. Among the many wacky, incredible and downright astounding technological advances that made their debut this year are a number of gadgets designed for the health, fitness and senior crowd.

Real-time personal health monitoring

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And for good reason: InformationWeek estimates that mobile health revenues will skyrocket from $230 million (2010) to $392 million in 2015 (citing Frost & Sullivan research). This growth will be fueled by a rapid increase in tablet users, projected to increase from 10 million (2010) to 82 million in 2015. Mobile health apps can ease the burden of an aging population by improving efficiency and reducing costly hospital admissions.

CES 2012: gadgets galore

If you’re a gadget geek, CES is literally a mecca of over-the-top electronic devices. PCWorld notes a few standout health-monitoring tools that made their debut at this year’s show, including bands that monitor stress levels based on skin response (really?) and track your brainwaves while you sleep. Great. Sure, I’d love to know whether I’m getting the right amount of sleep, but I have to admit a brain-wave tracking device seems a little intrusive.

WFTV.com says these types of wearable monitoring devices are the wave of the future, set to “revolutionize medical diagnostics and treatments.” MEDRC is an emerging company focused on bringing to market this specific type of minimally-invasive monitoring devices to the market.

Real-time personal health monitoring shifts the healthcare focus

Real-time health monitoring

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The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the future of mobile health, pointing to a future shift in the way we look at our personal health and treat conditions. The current model focuses on “fixing” problems after they’ve occurred. But with the rapid rise in the use of monitoring devices, people would be able to monitor their own health in real-time, making adjustments to maintain the specific lifestyle required to ward off potential chronic illnesses, like diabetes and atherosclerosis.

But does health tech really improve patient care?

But not everyone is so optimistic about the practicality and usability of the latest health tech trends. Health Leaders Media says hospitals often invest millions of dollars in the latest high-tech devices, but the author criticizes the practice, noting that these investments don’t actually improve patient care. The article goes on to list seven reasons why hospitals make poor investment decisions, including pressure from providers and a desire to boost public image. Who doesn’t want to say they have the most expensive, technologically-advanced imaging and diagnostic technology? It certainly brings patients to the door.

Not all tech investments are futile, however. Health Leaders points to findings from the ECRI Institute and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which identify the most (and least) worthy investments based on actual patient outcomes. The idea isn’t to disregard any new technology that comes to market, but to invest in the right million-dollar gadgets; namely, those with evidence of improved patient care, delivery or outcomes.

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