Fitness Trackers and Beyond: Digital Health's Future

Greetings from the Silicon Beach, Los Angeles! My name is Andrew Keibel. Originally an East Coaster from Hartford, Connecticut, I moved to LA 3 years ago to complete an internal medicine residency at the University of Southern California (but really to surf more).  I’m also the country’s first Digital Health Fellow. This position was created by the USC Center for Body Computing (CBC) under the guidance of digital health guru Dr. Leslie Saxon. 

As a Digital Health Fellow, I will be dedicating a year to studying the current environment of digital health, and specifically how medical technology, virtual and immersive therapy solutions, mobile apps, biosensors, wearables, the internet of things and big data can be utilized to enhance the quality of care and most importantly quality of life of patients. Created in 2007, the CBC has since established its role as leader driving innovation in the digital health world, and over the course of the year I will utilize this blog to document my experience and highlight innovations being developed here.

I’ll start things off with an article from Fortune Magazine entitled: “McDonald’s Recalls Faulty Happy Meal Activity Trackers”. According to Fortune, McDonald’s has formally recalled an activity tracker being offered with Happy Meals after receiving more than 70 reports of burns and skin irritations from people who wore the wristbands. This article highlights an important point: the commoditization of wearables and sensors is increasing the prevalence of digital health technology in our culture and lifestyles. There will always be both a leading and trailing edge of innovation. As more products and developers enter the market there will be failures and setbacks, but commoditization is essential to development and driving the innovation cycle.

Fitness and activity trackers represent an important segment in the digital health space. And although there is still a great deal of exciting innovation happening in this field, including a study happening at CBC utilizing daily eyeglass with integrated wellness tracking technology (How an insurance company is trying to craft eyeware of the future), it is important to think of digital health as more than just the traditional wrist-worn fitness bands. Our active projects extend beyond the wearables with projects including: a virtual care clinic where patients interact with virtual representations of physician specialists instantly on-demand through their mobile phone, immersive experiences utilizing 3D cameras to engage and educate surgical patients, and a mobile application to coordinate care teams and improve management of complicated end-stage heart failure patients. So for now, skip the Happy Meal and follow me as I keep you updated on what’s happening on the leading edge of digital health innovation.