Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealthGroup was the first panelist to speak at the kickoff of the Digital Health Summit, the fastest-growing aspct of the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (#2013CES). Tuckson implored the spillover audience to all, “self-deputize as national service agents in health,” recognizing that technology developers in the room at this show that’s focused on developers building Shiny New Digital Things have much to bring to health. As Andrew Thompson of Proteus Medical (the “invisible pill” company) said, “we can’t bend the health care cost curve; we have to break it.” This pioneering panel was all about offering new-new technologies to address both health costs and consumer empowerment.
Thompson spoke about the importance of medication adherence and mindfulness for people who take medicine. Sonny Vu, lead troublemaker and guru at Misfit Wearables (and previously developer-entrepreneur at Agamatrix), talked about designing “delightful” and wearable sensor technologies that motivate us to move around and live more healthful lives. Deepak Chopra shared his views on the future of wellbeing, mind-body-spirit connections for health, his lifelong mantra. And, Arianna Huffington waxed lyrically about Huffington Posts’s new GPS for the Soul app, intended to help users manage (lower) stress and its risk factor for many chronic conditions. HuffPo worked with HeartMath and dLife to develop the app, which is available for free download for iPhone and Droid platforms.
The Proteus swallowable sensor has already been approved in EMEA for European health citizens to use, and has been cleared by the FDA for marketing in the U.S. (to be available later in 2013 this side of the Pond). “What we’re doing,” Thompson said, “is to combine the power of medicines with the feedback power of your mind.”
Sonny Vu of Misfit Wearables spoke about the importance of putting the user at the center of designing objects that people would want to wear even if they didn’t accomplish health care tasks. This is the fashionista approach to health care design which has been getting traction with health designers keen to incorporate sensors into clothing, jewelry and new materials. Sonny said the new Misfit Shine sensor, which will be distributed in 2013, can be worn “to black tie events, business settings, and even swimming” because it’s waterproof.
Dave Daly, head of oncology for Life Technologies, spoke of the importance of delivering caancer care in the community. This lens reminds me of the importance of delivering health care where people “live, work, play and pray,” as Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has said. Life Technologies is involved in personalized therapies targeting disease, and today Dr. Daly spoke specifically about lung cancer for which there’s still a stigma due to its association with smoking. In addition to developing platforms for gene sequencing, bioinformatics and content for clinicians and consumers, the company has been involved with the Lung Cancer Alliance and other advocacy groups to stem the stigma of the disease. Such a corporate commitment demonstrates that the company is keen to surround the technology innovations with services that surround the consumer with the kind of mind-body-spirit wrap-around that Deepak Chopra would appreciate in the holistic health ecosystem.
Reed Tuckson ended the session on a note of urgency, speaking about UnitedHealthGroup’s alliance with Konami, the developer of Dance Dance Revolution. Thiss dynamic duo has bundled the game into a package for classrooms of 48 kids, including sensors and feedback loops. Tuckson compared kids’ perspective on exercise to previous generations of children abhorring castor oil. With tools like Dance Dance Revolution, the kids have fun and enjoy exercising — and as a result, getting healthy is fun
The urgent message, Tuckson asserted, is that the Federal government is broke, State governments are cash-strapped, and employers, large and small, can’t afford to continue paying for health care the way it’s currently done. A freight train is coming up against health care costs in the form of chronic disease: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and smoking-related illnesses. People bringing the innovative digital health tools must be effective in turning off the spigot of chronic disease, Tuckson implored.