Are We In a Digital Health Bubble?

As I walked through the exhibit hall at CES, I must admit that I was extremely overwhelmed by the number of digital health options that were on display. Certainly the size and grandeur of the booths was off the charts. Take a quick look at part of the iFit booth:
Digital Health at CES
Yes, that is 4 girls walking on treadmills on a vaulted stage. Of course, this was maybe 1/3 of their booth. Behind me they had a massive closed room and another girl walking on a different treadmill. Plus, upon closer inspection you might also notice that they have a bed on the vaulted stage and cloth coming down from the ceiling. I think they officially call that cloth “silks.” While I didn’t see it, you can tell that they’re going to have a Cirque du Soleil performer working the silks to attract attention to their booth. For those keeping track at home, there is a great sleep sensor from EarlySense on the bed.

While many might consider much of this absurd. The show and staging doesn’t really bother me too much. Since I organize the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference, I understand how hard it is to stand out at a conference. No doubt this booth left an impression. iFit even got exposure in this blog post because of it. We could argue if it was a good investment or not, but that’s a different story.

All I could think about as I walked through the incredible number of digital health solutions at CES was “Not all of these can survive.

Of course, many in the startup world would say that 90% of startups fail and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many of the companies exhibiting at CES will disappear. That’s true, but I never felt like this in past years. In past years at CES it felt like a number of players with some overlap and some competitive pressures, but that there was plenty of pie for everyone. This year has me wondering if that’s still the case.

As I mentioned, I’m hoping to publish a list of all the various health tracking devices. I realized that this going to take a lot of work. I’m still planning to work on it, but it’s going to take some time to do it right. One person I talked to said that there are about 700 health tracking devices out there. Of course, the real challenge is that 500 of them still don’t actually deliver (ie. they haven’t gone to market with a product or they can’t deliver the results they say they can deliver). Even 200 legitimate companies makes for a really competitive environment where people still talk about Fitbit and the Apple Watch and don’t know many of the others.

Let me be clear though. I think there’s a ton of tremendous innovation happening in the digital health space. From a consumer perspective all of this competition (bubble if you will) is great! Competition will push vendors to take what they’re doing to a new level. We’ll have a ton of amazing discoveries that will ripple through all of these companies. This is all great and will work out well for consumers and healthcare.

Plus, on the fringes you find some people doing unique things. The problem is that many of those companies have a hard time being heard with all of the other companies making so much noise. Sometimes I’m talking literal noise. I think it was the Under Armour booth that felt like they were a Las Vegas night club. It made it a lot of fun to visit and certainly attracted attention. I just wouldn’t want to be exhibiting at the booth next to them.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

3 Comments

  • Hi John,

    Your instincts are very good so I’m going to guess that there may be a very high attrition rate among the new entrants in the consumer health device field. The Fitbit lawsuit yesterday accusing the company of inaccurate readings may be a hint about how this shakes out.

    Perhaps the future will find a very clear demarcation between “consumer health electronics” and true medical feedback/diagnostic/treatment devices. I also wonder how much the FDA or some other certification agency might get involved in qualifying devices to clarify that for patients. Right now we have some clear medical devices such as programmable infusion pumps, but we have so much new technology that the line is blurred.

    Interesting times. Thanks for the great ongoing reporting. You’ve got your finger on the pulse, which is an old-fashioned but highly reliable, biological measuring device!

    Peggy

  • SGCMD,
    I’ve been trying to slow down for a long time. It hasn’t worked.

    I love the irony that the lawsuit came out right after I posted this. I guess we’re going to find out how much clinically relevant data they really have. I’m pretty sure Fitbit’s going to come out saying that they never said that it was clinically relevant. They just gave that impression. It’s the rest of us that drew the conclusions for them. We’ll learn a lot and lines will be drawn from this I think.

Click here to post a comment
   

Categories