In January, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada for my second time.

I spent most of my time gravitating towards CES’s health and wellness offerings, and I attended the Digital Health Summit conference track.

The Digital Health Summit featured two jammed packed days of back-to-back presentations and panels covering a range of topics which include; brain health, genomics, sleep tech, nano-diagnostics, micro-wearables, the blockchain, predictive analytics, and digital therapeutics to name a few. Also, the trade show floor was a potpourri of mature companies and startups in the health and wellness space from all around the word.

On my flight back to Detroit, I took some time to reflect and process everything that I heard and saw—trying to figure out how technology will shape my industry, and how it will perhaps change the role of provider-based healthcare institutions.

This is what I think.

Technology will give us the opportunity as providers to have additional “points” in which we can intervene to shape and influence the thoughts, actions, and activities that affect the health of our patients, their families, and communities.

What I am describing is the opportunity for us to shift from a prime focus on intervening at the point of care to the “point of thought,” “the point of action,” and the “point of consumption.” We will have to make this transition as an industry if we are to stay relevant in the minds of our patients. Note that this is a fundamental change in the current paradigm.

This is what I mean.

The clinical point of care as defined by Wikipedia is, “the point in time when clinicians deliver healthcare products and services to patients at the time of care.” It is the busy emergency room where a physician artfully and delicately sutures a wound. It is the clinic where a nurse practitioner changes the bandages on the trying-to-be-compliant diabetic. It is the surgical suite where a surgeon stitches in a new heart and gives a child a new lease on life.

Technology is presenting us with a new opportunity.

So much of our health, simplistically speaking, is affected by what we think, by what we do— our actions and activities, and by what we consume. During the summit, it struck me that, we now have all the digital tools we need to monitor our thoughts (brain activity), actions, and what we eat.

Relating to thought, consider Akili Interactive. Akili is working on creating a suite of video games that are on the cusp of becoming FDA approved digital therapeutics that leverage virtual reality headsets and the Muse™ brain sensing headband. One day very soon, physicians will prescribe video games to assist with managing cognitive disorders in humans like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ADS), major depressive disorder (MDD) and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Relating to activity, how about Gamin? Garmin is primarily known for developing a suite of handheld global positioning system (GPS) devices for the hardcore naturalist or for use in vehicles. Garmin was at CES this year discussing the evolution of their wearables and smartwatches. One big takeaway from this presentation is that wearable sensor technology has improved to the extent that we can consider their output relevant in clinical settings.

Recently, Fitbit has announced a partnership with Dexcom to bring to market a wearable that included a continuous blood glucose monitoring feature— pretty darn cool.

And finally, relating to consumption, consider WellDoc. WellDoc is a chronic disease management platform that assists people with diabetes, better manage their condition and keeps them connected with their care team. WellDoc’s BlueStar® diabetes management platform has many features, but the one that stood out to me the most during their presentation at CES was the platform’s ability to help diabetic patients select the best restaurant to eat at to stay compliant with their HbA1c levels. That’s cool. Oh, and the platform can also connect with your Fitbit.

With all these new tools and gadgets— there is much more out there— provider-based institutions run the risk of their brand and value proposition getting lost in translation. Consider this, If I look to brands like Fitbit, Garmin, WellDoc or Akilli every day for guidance and support along my wellness journey, would it not follow that my loyalty to legacy providers could potentially erode over time?

The opportunity is then for industry incumbents to adopt digital health tools, and also shift their mindsets from providing medical and clinical interventions when needed— the point of care— to assuming the role of lifestyle coach leveraging technology partners like Fitbit, Garmin, Well Doc, and Akili— at the point of thought, action, and consumption.

Could you imagine if the hospital system or health plan of the future had a “digital pharmacy” and connected you with all digital health product you needed—white labeled of course—before you were discharged?

I can.


*In a future post we will discuss how we might pay for all these digital tools and whether or not these tools lead to better health outcomes.

Zain Ismail’s views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations he is affiliated with. Follow Zain onTwitter– @IsmailZain #IsmailNation #CrossBorderLove #YQG. Connect with Zain on LinkedIn.