[Dr. Shaheen Lakhan is an award-winning physician-scientist and clinical development specialist, who is board-certified in both neurology and pain medicine with clinical training from the Cleveland Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the VP of Research & Development at The Learning Corp, and writes a regular column in The Learning Corp’s BrainWire hub for brain health]
As one of the premier industry events of the year, the CES Digital Health Summit in Las Vegas provides a key forum to discuss healthcare’s most promising technologies and innovations.
Wearables, remote monitoring products, AI, machine learning, big data, and diagnostics – these are the new technologies shaping our lives – and all were in force at CES. Having just returned from the 2020 iteration, I’ve identified three of the summit’s buzziest digital health topics, and why we need to continue the conversation around each.
We all know that sleep is vital for overall health, as it supports physical, mental and emotional functioning and restoration. Sleep tracking has been a hot topic for years, but the healthcare industry is finally coming to the realization that simply monitoring sleep is not enough. It’s encouraging that we’ve made huge strides in measurement, ditching old-school methods like sleep diaries which were often unreliable given we were asking already-sleep-deprived individuals to recall sleep.
CES highlighted advancements in sleeptech like smart mattresses and wearables that offer a more sophisticated level of data around not just quantity but quality of sleep. While we’ve improved the measurement of general sleep architecture, it’s mostly based on our historical established benchmarks like optimal duration (eight hours) which we’ve learned to adjust for different age groups. Sleep is so individualized – we need to find ways to create and analyze polysomnograms – that is, measures of our own specific sleep patterns – that help us achieve our personal sleep fingerprint.
Takeaway: While we have better ways to measure sleep, we need to know what this means on an individual basis by ditching archaic, normative parameters and helping people understand and attain the level of sleep they personally require.
There continues to be lots of discussion around patient-centric healthcare that meets patients where they are through increased accessibility. Solutions that are either in or close to home have gained traction, ranging from digital therapeutics platforms to big-box local retailers like Walmart offering healthcare services.
Though they all claim to be put the patient needs first, many biotech and biopharma companies fail to put the patient in the equation. Often times, we assume we know what’s best by creating tools and then searching for problems to fix versus the other way around – patients aren’t first approached to figure out the barriers we need to break down.
And that’s just the first step: Patients should be involved in the entire process, from the generation of the idea to the creation of the interface to the clinical trial design to the marketing material. We see this engagement in elements like review boards, focus groups, and market access research, but there needs to be a coordinated process of the patient’s experience and journey.
Takeaway: Partnering directly with patients from the get-go creates a better solution and ultimately, strong advocates that ensure your service is both valuable and helping the right people.
The focus on regulation was both present and imperative at this year’s Digital Health Summit as the industry looks for increased guidance heading into the new decade. The FDA has acknowledged that we cannot continue using outdated rules to regulate the future of healthcare, which includes increased use of SaMD, and that new pathways will need to be created to govern innovative technologies. The agency has further said they will not only embrace machine learning and AI in new products, but will use it internally in their review process.
\While a promising first step, these statements still leave companies to operate somewhat blindly in the immediate term. This uncertainty could cause confusion for Industry innovators over which regulatory pathways we should proceed with based on existing frameworks instead of having a new, definitive roadmap to follow.
Takeaway: Embracing healthcare innovation is important, but so is evaluating it which will get easier once the FDA decides on a new regulatory framework and issues formal guidance to help move the industry forward.
Photography courtesy of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®