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CES2017 Friday Recap: Healthcare Goes Virtual


Whew. To say my head is spinning is an understatement. CES so far has been a sensory and information overload the likes of which I have never experienced*.

After arriving in Vegas, Qu and I decided to take a “divide and conquer” approach to tackling this monster event. He would hit the expo hall and I would check out the Digital Health Summit sessions.

In the past, I’ve looked at the speaking portions of conferences as a waste of time. In a startup’s hierarchy of needs, sales comes before education on industry trends, so my time and energy at past conferences has been devoted to hustling the expo hall looking for customers.

As Redox has evolved though, so has my role. Our position as the bridge between healthcare’s existing IT infrastructure and tomorrows innovations provides us a unique perspective on what’s happening on the front lines of technology adoption in healthcare. Over the course of 2017 I will be spending time contributing our point of view, framed by the experiences of our customers, to the global discussion of what the future of healthcare will bring.

With that in mind, I approached the Digital Health Summit with an entirely new outlook and boy was I impressed.

Back to back discussions left me frantically scribbling notes and compiling an intimidating list of follow ups. I plan to build out many of my discoveries into larger pieces but for the sake of a daily recap, I’ll highlight two moments that stood out.

Healthimation provides a taste of healthcare’s coming “gamification” revolution.

As the story goes, former video game experts from Warner Brothers, Vivendi Universal, and Hasbro got together to form an “entertainment studio” for healthcare. Their first product is a diabetes management application built on the long standing diabetes management program, “WhyWAIT”.

What struck me about Healthimation’s demo of their application was the quality of the digital avatar, “Lena”. She seemed more like a character out of the newest Pixar film than some emotionless virtual assistant. While “gamifying” evidenced-based clinical programs is an obvious opportunity, the difficult part lies in actually making a compelling game. If Healthimation’s product in use comes anywhere close to the quality of the demo, they may be on to something big. Definitely a group worth keeping an eye on.

Check out this article for more information on the Healthimation.

Cedars-Sinai’s Director of Health Services Research, Brennan Spiegel, believes virtual reality has the potential to reduce opiate use for pain management.

My favorite panel of the day was, “Dying to Get High—Tackling the Opioid Epidemic”. In a moving and enlightening discussion representatives from Harvard Medical School, Cedars-Sinai, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, and Pear Therapeutics** discussed the staggering opioid abuse epidemic and offered a few hopeful discoveries for quelling this public health nightmare.

Braeburn is going to market with a solution that supplies patients with an implant that administers medication over the course of 6-months. When waiting in line for a dose of methadone is still the primary treatment for managing opioid withdrawal symptoms, this is an exciting development that has the potential to dramatically improve the opioid treatment landscape.

What really threw me for a loop in this discussion was Brennan Spiegel sharing findings from his work at Cedars-Sinai surrounding the use of virtual reality to treat chronic pain. He cited a 24% reduction in pain by patients receiving virtual reality treatments and powerfully stated that he has never seen a more immediate and undeniable impact on his pain patients than what he has seen with VR.

He shared that it is not uncommon for patients to cry tears of joy after being transported to Hawaii or a Cirque du Soleil stage and feeling an escape from their “bio-psycho-social-jail-cell” (what an amazing description!). He has received grants to continue his research and will continue to explore this alternative to traditional opioid prescriptions for pain management.

That’s all for now folks! I’m back at it Saturday and look forward to sharing more of my findings as things wind down as well as more extensive thoughts following the event.

*That’s a bit of hyperbole. Moving to Bangkok for a semester abroad as a 20-year old might have CES beat.

**I am going to write an entire post on Pear Therapeutics because they presented a rather unique approach to commercializing a digital health application that warrants more brain space than my Vegas adled brain currently has available.


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Written by George McLaughlin

Early stage start-up guy turned healthcare nerd. George has worn a lot of hats during his time at Redox but these days he leads up our product marketing efforts.