Healthcare "Game Changers" at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

January 7, 2011

Investor buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show has been focused on smartphones, 3-D TVs and slick new tablets designed to challenge the iPad, but some companies are also unveiling technologies, devices and services that some are calling "game changers" for the healthcare industry.

Investor buzz at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has been focused on smartphones, 3-D TVs and a slew of slick tablets designed to challenge the Apple iPad, but a host of companies are also unveiling technologies, devices and services that some are calling “game changers” for the healthcare industry.

The Digital Health Summit, being held in conjunction with CES, on Friday announced its list of game-changing technologies, products and services in digital health in 2011. Among the top companies honored were PhiloMetron, Proteus Biomedical, Healthsense and Steeper's BeBionic.

• San Diego-based PhiloMetron has created a digital smart patch that measures how many calories a person has eaten and burned. The information is then transmitted wirelessly to a program on your smartphone. The program not only monitors an individual’s consumption and burn rate, but will also help users set goals and send alerts with tips and suggestions to help meet them.

Proteus Biomedical Inc., of Redwood City, Calif., has developed the “smart pill” -- a tiny sensor that can be inserted into medications that transmits messages to your smartphone letting you know when the pill was taken and how what your vital signs are when you take them. (The data can also be transmitted to your doctor.)

Healthsense’s eNeighbor Resident Monitoring system collects various measurements, such as weight, blood pressure and blood oxygen and can transmit the data to patients’ phones to remind them to take measurements at desired times. This data are all collected and compiled via a secure web portal operated by the Mendota Heights, Minn., company that patients or healthcare providers may be able to access.

Steeper’s BeBionic, with U.S. headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, has created a bionic hand that enables wireless programming and monitoring of the hand and wrist, allowing clinicians to select and rank the grips available to the user, as well as fine-tune the speed and grip range, modify operating thresholds and change other signal features, the company says.

"The growth of the digital health category is bringing new companies and technologies to the forefront. It's an exciting time and being able to bring these individuals together in one room to show, talk about and demonstrate their various technologies is an opportunity I just couldn't pass up," said Jill Gilbert, co-producer of the Digital Health Summit.

Click here to view more of the hottest healthcare devices on display the at 2011 CES.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communication

For telecommunications companies, the hottest technology in healthcare is M2M, or machine-to-machine -- mobile connections that link machines remotely to do such things as monitor patient weight, blood pressure, and glucose readings. (Think of it as OnStar for your body.) The companies also are seeking to cash in on the rush to implement electronic health records (EHRs) systems, which can transmit patient records, track medications and monitor patients wirelessly.

Telecom giants AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) were at CES touting their move into healthcare devices, eyeing the potential for growth in M2M. Currently, about 8.5% of AT&T’s customers are now industrial or consumer machine-type devices, while Verizon’s M2M business is about 7.8%, according to a report on Investors Business Daily’s technology blog.

The total number of wireless M2M connections is expected to reach 294.1 million connections in 2015, according to a recent survey by Swedish research firm Berg Insight. The study also forecast that AT&T would be the first provider to reach 10 million M2M subscribers by the first quarter of 2011.

At CES, AT&T partnered with MedApps, a Scottsdale, Az.-based mobile health monitoring provider, to sell wireless devices for blood pressure and glucose readings. In November, AT&T formed the ForHealth unit to combine the company's current health-care IT offerings with up-and-coming health IT companies such as MedApps.

"We believe the healthcare industry is at a 'tipping point' for fundamental change that will improve patients' care and lead to better healthcare outcomes," said John Stankey, president and CEO of AT&T Business Solutions, in a statement. "Networking solutions, using cloud-based, mobility and telepresence technologies, can help the overall industry deliver better care to people while driving costs out of the system."

Rival Verizon, meanwhile, was showcasing its first batch of 4G long-term evolution (LTE) devices, along with partner Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) and new M2M partners, at CES. Qualcomm itself had some news, announcing that Telcare Inc. of Bethesda, Md., will use its chips its soon-to-be-released 3GM blood glucose meter. Telcare demonstrated the 3GM and other healthcare-related products, at CES.

Check out HCPLive's live blog and see what attendees are saying to stay on top of the latest and greatest gadgets as they hit the floor in Vegas.