Gupta opens CES Digital Health Summit

Sensors, mobile robots, simulators on tap
By Eric Wicklund
09:42 AM

Sensors attached to the body that monitor vital signs. Mobile robots that can diagnose patients anywhere from the hospital to the clinic to the battlefield. Virtual reality simulators that help treat war veterans suffering from PTSD and others with psychological issues.

These are some of the up-and-coming facets of mHealth, according to organizers and attendees of the Digital Health Summit at the 2013 International CES.

The two-day summit, which kicked off Tuesday in Las Vegas amid the glitz and glamour of the massive consumer electronics show, is bringing together a wide range of mHealth advocates, from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta to American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous. Sponsored by Living in Digital Times, Producer Jill Gilbert launched the event on Tuesday by pointing out that 2013 has been dubbed "the year of digital health."

[See also: Mobile health initiative expands with global focus.]

And while it's true the industry has seen "astronomical growth" over the past year, she pointed out that 2012 was also seen as "the year of digital health," and 2014 might also share that moniker. The point, she said, is that digital health is ingrained in today's evolving healthcare landscape and is slowly winning over both patients and providers.

She then gave the stage to Gupta, who spoke of the military's use of digital health tools to treat patients in Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as war veterans back home.

"Some of our greatest lessons have come from the battlefield," he said, adding that such tools are helping healthcare providers change "the golden hour" – that critical first hour of treatment after a medical emergency – to "the platinum 10 minutes."

[See also: Health eVillages celebrates one year of delivering mobile health info.]

Gupta then highlighted the work of Anmol Sood and Equivital, whose mobile sensors were recently used to monitor the vital signs of Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner while he parachuted back to Earth from a platform some 24 miles above ground; Albert "Skip" Rizzo, associate director of the University of California's Institute for Creative Technologies, which is using virtual reality to help treat veterans with PTSD and train soldiers going into war zones; and Collin Angle of iRobot and Yulun Wang of InTouch Health, who are partnering on the RP-VITA telemedicine robot, earlier versions of which have been used to treat people recovering from the earthquake in Haiti, burn victims in remote battlefield locations and even stroke victims in the middle of Hurricane Sandy.

Angle, who confessed his favorite robot from "Star Wars" was not the cute R2D2 but the less cuddly, more practical MSE 6 unit that serviced the Death Star, said digital health needs to be viewed from the intersection of "what can be done and what is the need," not what cool toys can be created.

"We've all grown up with (robots) and we all believe they can do amazing and wonderful things," he pointed out, "but we always get ahead of ourselves."

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