Last week, Medgadget was an official media partner of the first-ever AdvaMed Digital MedTech Conference in San Francisco. This day-long event was packed with panels of experts who shared how their companies are endeavoring to disrupt the healthcare industry and dispensed some useful advice.
The morning started with a keynote address from Dr. Jessica Mega, Chief Medical Officer at Verily Life Sciences (Google/Alphabet’s healthcare arm). She gave an informative overview of the components of digital health platforms, which also ended up being a fitting introduction to the main discussion points of the entire conference. Verily’s still-too-advanced glucose sensing contact lens even made a brief cameo, albeit as an example of putting sensors in things we use on a routine basis. In a nutshell, Dr. Mega broke digital health into three steps:
- Collect: use advanced sensors that can be seamlessly integrated into objects of everyday use such as spoons
- Organize: process the collected data with advanced algorithms and deep machine learning
- Activate: make technology relevant to patients through a patient-centric design and development approach, providing meaningful outcomes
Following Dr. Mega’s address was the first panel of experts from Deloitte Consulting, Schumacher Clinical, InTouch Health, and Rock Health. Much of the discussion centered around the potential and hassles of collecting and analyzing “big data.” Everyone agreed that better standards were needed, which would lead to increased interoperability between different platforms. Data acquisition, whether through sensors or entry into EHRs, needs to be seamless for both patient and clinician, be as automated as possible and not hindered by IT/security factors, and ultimately lead to better predictive analytics. None of this, the panelists conveyed, can happen unless more collaboration among research institutions, medtech companies, and healthcare facilities is promoted.
After a short break, the conference continued with a panel of regulatory affairs experts and the FDA’s digital health director, Bakul Patel, in a discussion on the concept of software as a device and speeding up the process of getting FDA approval. Some of the ideas discussed included an FDA “Pre-Check” expedited approval program for certain types of products, a “Regulatory Development Kit” to help software developers incorporate regulatory requirements deeper into the development process, and an “FDA Learn” program that increases the collaboration between the FDA and companies. Numerous times during the panel, Mr. Patel emphasized that these tools are a work-in-progress and encouraged suggestions and concepts from companies and individuals. If you are a digital health company that thinks the FDA is a pain, now is your chance to have an impact!
During lunch, Deborah Kilpatrick, CEO of Evidation Health, and Rowan Chapman, a director at Evidation Health, shared the story of starting and growing their company. They even gave an interesting look into the company’s diversity, culture and hiring practices. Ironically, it was the only discussion of the day with women on the panel.
Following lunch was a panel of experts in companies utilizing AI. Fabien Beckers shared how his company, Arterys, is using machine learning to make cardiac imaging smarter and more immersive. John Daley shared some of the ways in which IBM‘s Watson supercomputer is helping with clinical decision-making. Dexter Hadley of UCSF presented research on how AI has shown to be excellent in identifying various types of melanomas. And Cory Kidd of Catalia Health brought on stage Mabu, a cute robot powered by AI to make chronic disease patient engagement a little more personal.
The day ended with a discussion on sensors in their various forms. Ben Hwang from Profusa shared more about the continuous implantable sensor he showed us last year at CES. Dr. David Rhew, Samsung‘s Chief Medical Officer, shared how his company isn’t necessarily trying to reinvent the wheel, but rather is leveraging existing technology in the form of its Galaxy smartphones and Gear smartwatches to seamlessly gain insights into its users’ health without the need for extraneous gadgets. He also shared some recent research suggesting that VR is as effective as narcotics at pain control, and without the side effects! Kevin Sayer of Dexcom reflected back on the many firsts the company had in creating a smartphone-connected continuous glucose monitor. He made a prediction that glucose will one day be a commonly measured vital sign rather than just a number for managing diabetes. And Vladimir Vacić of 23andMe shared how smartphone-based surveys and health data had significantly increased the amount and type of data it has received for its genetics databases. To put it in perspective, Vacić shared that 23andMe’s mobile app has played a significant role in the over half a billion answers to survey questions it’s received, which has resulted in a database of over 1000 phenotypes!
While this inaugural Digital MedTech Conference didn’t showcase any high-tech gadgets or cool demos, the discussion that took place was a great reflection on how digital health is leading to increasingly rapid and disruptive change in healthcare. It also reminded us that there is still much to do in order to make healthcare affordable, accessible, and effective for everyone. Until we achieve those goals, you can count on Medgadget to continue to report on what’s ahead.
Medgadget editor Dr. Justin Barad also contributed to this report.