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January 7, 2016

The New Launchpad for Mobile Medical Device Apps: the Consumer Electronics Show

There was a time not too long ago when medical devices were launched to the world almost exclusively at preeminent medical society meetings, primarily to gain the focused attention of physicians and/or other medical professionals who may use or prescribe the medical device to their patients. But the times they are a changing.

Over the past 24 hours, the Consumer Electronics Show (or CES) was the stage for announcements from both large and small medical device companies on product launches or product developments.  It is important to recognize that this approach creates a lot of attention on a new and sizable target audience, the patient consumer, who will actually be using the device, either on their own or in collaboration with their medical professionals. Furthermore, it is clear now more than ever that the integration of mobile app technologies into medical device technology is a key requirement for innovative medical device technologies to be embraced by the patient consumer.

Neurometrix, a medical device manufacturer of the Quell, a drug-free pain relieving wearable device, announced at CES today the FDA 510(k) clearance of a new over-the-counter (OTC) device. This new FDA 510(k) clearance allows the Quell to be controlled directly by a smartphone app. This new device will be available in March 2016 and previous generation customers will be able to get a free upgrade. Shai Gozani, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO of Neurometrix, summed it up perfectly in stating, “It is only fitting that we are making this announcement at CES 2016 which is the international showcase for consumer technology breakthroughs.”

Yesterday, the CEOs of both Medtronic and IBM announced their progress on a collaboration that started last April in combining the IBM Watson artificial intelligence platform with Medtronic’s insulin management devices. The result of these efforts is an app that is designed to detect low sugar events in diabetic patients before they happen. A pilot study of 600 diabetics with Medtronic insulin pumps and glucose meters, using “cognitive analytics” powered by IBM Watson, found that the system could predict a hypoglycemic event up to 3 hours ahead, Medtronic’s diabetes president Annette Brüls wrote in a blog post yesterday.

“Our collaboration with IBM is aimed at providing personalized diabetes management. We’re building Medtronic apps that will apply cognitive computing to data from Medtronic devices (glucose monitors and insulin pumps) and we expect to include other information sources – such as GPS, wearable activity trackers, and calendar details. The solutions we’re co-developing with IBM may 1 day enable Medtronic to provide real-time insights and coaching to help people understand the impact of daily activities on their diabetes and make adjustments as needed,” Brüls wrote. This Watson-powered system is slated for a limited release this summer, according to Bruls’ interview with Forbes.

It is clear there is a bright future in medicine marrying the intelligent use of data and consumer friendly technologies with sophisticated medical device technology that is well-vetted and proven. Events like CES make for a fitting launch pad for companies large and small trying to gain the attention of consumers, as well as their medical professionals, in this new frontier of personalized medicine.