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10 Innovations in Healthcare Technology

We're only a few weeks into 2019, and yet one of the most significant conferences for healthcare technology is already behind us. CES 2019 featured the 10th year of its Digital Health Summit focusing on the role technology plays in advancing and reforming medicine, healthcare, and wellness and was held January 8–11 in Las Vegas. Attendees of this event were witness to some of the latest innovations in healthcare technology as companies from around the world debuted new products or versions of their products.

Here are 10 of the innovations that were featured at CES 2019.

1. Pria home care companion

Launched by Stanley Black+Decker at CES, Pria is described as an automated medication management and home health assistant that patients control with their voice. It's a variation of Pillo Health's Pillo device, which was funded through an Indiegogo campaign in 2016.

Using smartphone app integration, Pria allows caregivers to remotely monitor an individual's medication and healthcare schedule. The technology's abilities include scheduling medication doses, providing alerts, dispensing medication at scheduled times, and allowing users to communicate with caregivers via voice command and built-in camera. Pria is now available to consumers. A version designed for senior living is expected to launch this year.

2. HeartGuide blood pressure monitor

HeartGuide by Omron Healthcare is described as the "first wearable blood pressure monitor." Looking like a wristwatch, HeartGuide features a cuff in its band that inflates to measure systolic and diastolic pressure. Omron says the device uses oscillometric technology — the same technology found in blood pressure cuffs used in doctors' office — to allow users to check their blood pressure at any time. HeartGuide can perform other functions as well, including tracking steps taken, distance covered, calories burned, and sleep quality. It also provides basic smartwatch functionality (e.g., date; time; notifications of texts, emails and calls; and event reminders). 

A corresponding app — HeartAdvisor is designed to help educate users about how their lifestyle impacts heart health. It is designed to explain the meaning of blood pressure readings and help users take steps to improve their heart health.

While at CES, Omron also previewed Complete, a device which provides blood pressure monitoring with EKG capability.

3. VRHealth telehealth platform

Officially launched the day before CES kicked off and demoed at the event, VRHealth's telehealth platform includes virtual reality (VR)-based apps designed for use by patients in their home. They are designed to support a range of functions and activities, including memory span and cognitive skills, neck exercises, and pain management. One of the apps also includes a virtual therapist. The platform uses artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt psychological protocols to specific needs of patients with the intention of reducing the effects of hot flashes. Patients can share access to the data captured by the apps with medical professionals.

The telehealth platform was developed in collaboration with AARP, which shared exhibiting space with VRHealth at CES. As Andy Miller, AARP's senior vice president of innovation and product development, noted in a news release, "VR Health is exhibiting with us at CES since its VR platform helps foster crucial connections that seek to allow physicians, patients, and their families to receive critical health information in real-time in order to provide the best possible care."

4. Kaizn hearing aid

Described as a personal AI assistant for the ears, Oticon says its Kaizn device uses AI to learn "from a hearing aid wearer's listening preferences, habits, and environments to predict their preferences in a particular sound scenario and automatically adjust their hearing aid settings for an optimized listening experience." The product was previewed at CES.

Likening the process to Spotify's recommendation of music based upon listening choices and habits, Kaizn learns as the hearing aid is used and adjusted in different environments. Eventually, Kaizn can automate such changes.

In a news release, Dr. Annette Mazevski, manager of technology assessment at Oticon, says, "With Kaizn, we tap the full potential of data-driven personalized hearing care, using a combination of real-time local data, aggregated 'big' data, and AI to deliver a best sound experience."

5. EyeForcer smart glasses frames

In 2016, Medical Wearable Solutions brought its EyeForcer glasses to CES in hopes of securing a partner that would help bring the technology to market. This year, the company was back at CES and now has a model of the EyeForcer for sale.

EyeForcer is designed to help prevent diseases and difficulties associated with bad posture, such as those of the spine, back, and neck (e.g., "Text Neck"). The EyeForcer frames include sensors designed to measure the angle at which a user looks at mobile devices. When the frames detect poor posture, the user is notified through the activating of an LED light installed on the frames. Once posture is correct, the light turns off. Users can also choose to use an app to receive notifications concerning poor posture.

Users can bring the frames to their optometrist to replace EyeForcer's lenses with prescription lenses.

6. PERS vital sign monitoring

This device from U.S.-Korea startup Xandar Kardian is intended to provide non-contact, ongoing monitoring of a user's vital signs. The device can measure resting heart rate, respiration rate, and movement index. Information gathered can be accessed from an accompanying app.

But where the technology really shines — and where it derives its name from — is in its ability to serve as a personal emergency response system (PERS). Coming equipped with Amazon Alexa and 9-1-1 auto-dialing, users can request assistance one of three ways: holding a button on the device's LED lamp for three seconds, speaking to Alexa or waving towards the device for 8-10 seconds.

When help is triggered, the system process through a list of nine pre-registered caretakers who will be notified of the alert. If none of these caretakers responds, an optional emergency dialing system can connect with 9-1-1.

7. Guardian Angel vitals monitoring and alarm systems

Just prior to CES, Aulisa Medical announced the release of its first Guardian Angel systems. This line of wireless, wearable devices provides continuous vitals monitoring and alarms when vital sign abnormalities are detected.

Aulisa highlighted two models of the Guardian Angel line. The FDA-cleared GA1000 Rx is for local use (within about 33 feet) and now available for purchase. Features include the continuous vitals monitoring (once per second), early detection visual and audio alarms that alert caretakers of abnormalities, pairing with a tabletop display system, and remote viewing of the display system via the Aulisa app.

The GA2000 Rx, which has FDA clearance pending, includes the features of the GA1000 Rx as well as cloud-based monitoring of the display unit (no distance restrictions), three minutes of recorded and easily accessible vitals data surrounding alarm events, and patient video and audio functionality.

Guardian Angel indicated that it has two additional systems designed for continuous vitals monitoring of infants and newborns which have been submitted for FDA review.

8. Vik Breast cancer app

This free app from French firm WeFight uses AI to help support breast cancer patients. Available on iOS and Android and through Facebook Messenger, it's a "chatbot" that responds to patient questions.

As a pharmaphorum report notes, Vik Breast can perform a wide range of functions. It can answer questions and provide guidance on issues such as treatment, taking medication, dealing with side effects, nutrition, social life, sexuality, paying for care, cancer detection, prevention methods, and treatments.

Vik Breast can also be used to send users reminders for appointments and medications as well as inform them of clinical trial recruitment.

9. TestCard home urine test

In September 2018, London-based TestCard raised $1.7 million in seed funding. The company's backers are banking on the success of this digitally enabled home urine testkit.

Using TestCard is easy. A user receives the TestCard postcard and applies urine to a pull-out strip/applicator in the postcard. With the TestCard app open, the user holds their mobile device above the TestCard. The app scans the strip and delivers an immediate analysis.

Initial applications include detection of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and pregnancy. Users are informed of whether or not they have a UTI or are pregnant. More technical results are stored in the app for clinician review, if desired.

The company indicates that products in its pipeline include other analysis test products such as those for prostate health screening, sexually transmitted diseases, and monitoring of diabetes and kidney disease.

10. IQcast low glucose predictor

Medtronic and IBM Watson Health came together to develop this new feature for Medtronic's Sugar.IQ personal diabetes assistant app. IQcast, which was launched about a week before CES, uses IBM Watson AI technology to help predict the likelihood of a patient experiencing a low glucose event within a 1-4-hour window.

According to a news release, IQcast analyzes multiple signals to assess whether someone with diabetes has a low, medium, or high likelihood of going low during that window. The degree of predictive accuracy increases as a low blood sugar event becomes more imminent.

In the release, Dr. Robert Vigersky, senior director of medical and clinical affairs for the diabetes group at Medtronic, said, "Simply put, IQcast acts like a weather forecast for people with diabetes so they can better prepare for their day. By predicting the likelihood of a low glucose event … IQcast empowers people on multiple daily injections with insights so they can live their life with greater freedom and better health."

The Sugar.IQ app, and its new IQcast feature, is available to users of the Medtronic Guardian Connect system.

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