CES 2016 and Health Technology

Recently returned from CES 2016 in Las Vegas, the annual Consumer Electronics Show.   This was a first for me and for anyone who has attended you’ll understand when I say it was ‘information overload’, but in a good way – if there is such a term.   For those of us who have grown up with technologies, this is where the better part of the world’s technological innovations are highlighted, demonstrated, paraded and critiqued.  There were familiar companies, but the dominant theme was the up and coming or the company that maybe saw their start via Kickstarter.   And it had its international flavour with companies from all over the world including a large contingent from China, France, Germany, UK and more.

The dominant themes were drones of course, virtual reality, large format TV’s and the resolution continued to increase after the introduction of the 4K format.   The automakers were there with BMW having a prominent position and made good use of it to show off how technology is already impacting form and function.  And there were the technology makers who are bringing new innovations to the mobile world – not the phone but at least for North Americans where their car or truck are still considered must haves – there were all manner of technological add on’s for your vehicle.

All of that was great – what red blooded Canadian or American male wouldn’t get excited by all the bells and whistles!  What I really came to CES to see, was the technologies for the health sector and I found it.   The health related technology had its own venue in the Venetian/Sands conference center.   Biometrics was the big theme and I guess you really couldn’t separate the fitness gadgets from the strictly health related tech.  Biometrics was the key to all of these – sensors of sort.  Sensors that could measure heart rate, blood pressure, sweat, muscle tone, physical position as well as geographic location.

It’s been said that when it comes to the adoption of health related technologies, we seem to become ultra-conservative.  The same is more true when it comes to the integration of new technologies that might be used by health professionals.  Not sure that I’ve found an adequate, valid explanation but based on the relative size of the health technologies at this year’s CES, I tend to think this comment is very true.

Proof of this: I was simply looking to see a true ‘bloodless’ blood glucose monitoring device and found not even one.   Yes there was one neat gadget, the Dexcom G4 that was a continuous blood glucose monitor but it still required the use of an inserted needle (probe) that was connected to the transmitter which was adhesive to the skin and transmitted to the monitor.   I believe next year they may change that sensor and add an app for iOS and/or Android, so you could use your phone to monitor the glucose values measured and transmitted by the needle probe.

By the way, Medtronic also offers a continuous monitoring device, their Enlite Sensor which they also integrate into their insulin pump.  The needle/sensor is inserted at a 90 degree angle and there is mention that the glucose monitor may still require daily calibration using a blood sample on a strip.  The integration with the insulin pump, which is the other side of the diabetic equation, is the real step forward.   The pump is providing small doses of a human insulin (eg., Humalog®) via a constantly inserted subcutaneous tiny needle. With the information provided by the blood glucose sensor and some slick programming parameters, there are few diabetics using this system who couldn’t enjoy some of the best glucose control currently possible.

Not to take away from this technology because it does in fact do away from the daily finger poking.   And the continuous measurement opens up all manner of information never available before.  That’s an improvement in the right direction but when are the millions of diabetics going to get the brake they deserve?   A blood glucose monitor that does away with the bloodletting all together?    That is the technological breakthrough I believe we need and has been there at a developmental level for at least the past fifteen years if not more.  The technology is out there in the hands of several companies, but sad to say they were not being highlighted at this year’s CES.

More about technology and home health in our future blogs.

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