I attended the CES 2012 in search of new and interesting ideas for MEDS (Medical Electronic Device Solutions magazine www.medsmag.com). According to CES, this year the record attendance reached 153,000.I attended two panel discussions. Compared to the conferences I attended last year, there were a lot of repeated themes such as the importance of wireless health, connectivity and who is paying the bills. One fundamental challenge was “to get people to change behavior with the help of technology.” One panelist said, “Eat right and exercise.” If this sounds familiar to you, note that a big portion of today’s $2,500,000,000 healthcare cost came from the non-compliance of that statement. Surprised? The projection is that the number will double in a few years. The digital health community is very interested in solving the problem with technology. On the bright side, there is a new technology trend of preventive healthcare that promotes high-tech, fancy exercise gear that gives you everything you need to know about your heart rate and body conditions while exercising, and provides some entertainment along the way. At least this gives you more incentives to burn off some calories.

Connectivity Panel: One of the most important factors in the medical electronic world is connectivity, whether you do it with wires or wireless. Some people call it a Body Area Network (BAN), others call it a connected system. Whether you use a handheld device such as the iPad or Android pad, or iPhone or Android smartphone, you are dealing with a complicated infrastructure with many parties involved. I’d like to give you the short version of the panel. First, let me repost the panel as it was listed on CES site (Digital Health Summit).

Simplifying the Architecture for Connectivity

January 12, 2012 9:50 a.m. – 10:40 a.m, LVCC, North Hall N250

When it comes to health there is no margin for error or incompatibility. Who’s creating the standards for the devices we use to power the devices we’ll use to monitor, diagnose, monitor and treat health issues? Hear from the big players that are making it happen



  • Charles Parker – Executive Director, Continua Health Alliance



  • Steven Dean – Global Healthcare Segment Lead, Freescale
  • Rachel Harker – Business Development Manager, Cambridge Consulting
  • Horst Merkle – Director, Information Management Systems Diabetes Care, Roche Diagnostics
  • Chris Wasden – Managing Director- Innovation Practice Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Tim Fowler replaced Rachel Harker, and they added Clint McClellan, president of Continua to the panel


My take away:

  1. How to use technology to do “Behavior Modification.” Dietitians have tried to do this for centuries. Let’s see how technologies can help.
  2. Clint McClellan of Continua emphasized the importance of end-to-end connectivity, which was a key focus of Continua. The Wi-Fi hubs, USB, 3G, radio design and the connected cloud will need to work together. He also pointed out one very critical element:  medical device development is much slower than that of the consumer-driven Android OS. So Continua would set some standard such as the Android 4.0 and stand behind it. This is important in order to make things work. With Continua doing their own certification program, the outcome can be useful. It will be interesting to see how all medical device companies and other health organizations work together and what percentage of devices on the market will actually rely on the Continua logo.
  3. Tim Fowler from Cambridge (a design company) pointed out that in the next few years the importance of cost benefits and productivity of technology in the digital health environment.
  4. Chris Wasden from PricewaterhouseCoopers pointed out that the UK is ahead of the USA in TeleHealth in that fewer patients were readmitted to the hospital. Additionally, the telecom companies in the UK provide a remote monitoring service to patients free for 90 days. After 90 days, many patients were willing to pay to have the benefits of getting that remote monitoring—a sense of peace knowing the caretakers will be able to look after them without going to the hospital. Note that that people in the U.S. are willing to pay $20-$50 a month to subscribe to a TV service, but reluctant to pay a similar fee to monitor their own health according to Chris. 1/3 of the U.S. population is overweight today and it will reach ½ in a few years. So eating right and exercising are important. Good advice from Chris.
  5. Horst Merkle from Roche Diagnostics (Diabetes Care) worked with the FDA a great deal and he pointed out that merely exercising 30-35 minutes a week will reduce the risk of having diabetes by 35%. Perhaps this is the best ROI for busy people. He also mentioned that “behavior modification” requires feedback. Horst said, “Imagine driving a car without a dash board or gauges, and you had no idea how fast you were driving on the freeway!!” Well put!
  6. Steve Dean from Freescale discussed how silicon can provide solutions to accomplish the above requirements. We will be doing a MEDS Design Guide: Silicon Building Blocks where we will discuss more about Freescale.


My conclusions:

The need to have a reliable connected infrastructure is critical. Device makers and IT departments of hospitals need to come together to make this happen. There are numerous challenges in front of us. Among them:

  • Security concerns
  • Prevention of hackers
  • Privacy
  • Devices and infrastructure working together
  • Certification such as Continua compliance
  • Education and awareness of reliable solutions

I witnessed a great start.


Who is paying?

When I go to lunch with a potential client/vendor, I always ask myself the question, “Is the person buying or selling? Should I pay or let the other person pay?”

As a technologist, I tend to focus on which areas of healthcare need the most help and who has the best solutions. It came to my attention that a very important question needs to be asked. When a start-up comes up with a brilliant product design but the insurance companies don’t understand the benefits of what that product offers, they will not cover the expenses. Would the patient pay for using or buying the products?….Maybe not.

So who is paying becomes a very important question in Medical Electronic Devices design. The following panel dealt with this topic.


Who’s Paying the Bill for e-Health?  

January 12, 2012 10:50 a.m. – 11:40 a.m,LVCC, North Hall N250

One of the biggest obstacles in the digital health arena is not the technology at all. Rather it’s who will foot the bill. Join a leading healthcare strategist, a pioneer physician in connected health, one of our largest insurance companies, and a key representative from CMS for this lively discussion.



  • Matthew Holt – Co-Chairman, Health 2.0



  • Robert Jarrin – Senior Director, Government Affairs, Qualcomm Incorporated
  • Joseph Kvedar – Director, Center for Connected Health, Partners HealthCare
  • Bill Walsh – Senior Advisor, AARP


My take away:

  1. Robert Jarrin from Qualcomm, responsible for government affairs and funding start-ups, discussed the wireless life; using the phone to read health data remotely and the importance of “connected health.”
  2. Bill Walsh from AARP asked why insurance were not paying for mHealth. They were fully aware of the benefits provided.
  3. Joseph Kvedar, M.D., from Partner HealthCare suggested that providing critical information to the caretakers could reduce costs; much like a dashboard provides information to a driver. The information to facilitate timely decisions could reduce hospital readmission by as much as 50%, which is significant. A case study conducted by EMC to help their employees manage their hypertension had lowered their blood pressure.


My conclusions:
This panel suggested that we need to have a strong education program to help the insurance providers to understand technologies and the benefits available. Organizations such as Continua and AAMI could develop some sort of onsite training programs for the insurance provider decision makers to give them a better understanding of technologies and how they could reduce the overall health care costs. Once they saw the results, it would be much easier for them to make reimbursement decisions.