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Connected Health showcases precision medicine and wearables

Precision medicine practitioners need to match medications to patient's needs by talking with them, not just using microscopes to examine genes, a Connected Health speaker said.

BOSTON -- While precision medicine has made progress with genome sequencing and other tech advances, practitioners need to spend more time talking with patients to learn their preferences, experiences and tolerances.

That prescription came from Connected Health Symposium 2015 keynoter Thomas Goetz, author and co-founder of San Francisco-based startup Iodine Inc., which mines publicly available clinical data to help consumers make more informed choices about drugs.

"The next blockbuster drug is experience," Goetz, a former executive editor of Wired magazine, told attendees at the two-day annual conference and show held at the Seaport World Trade Center, and sponsored by Boston-based Partners HealthCare.

This year's symposium, the 12th, was themed "The Internet of Healthy Things," in a nod to the increasing popularity of IoT, mHealth applications and wearable health technology in health IT.

"People expect medicine to work. And then it doesn't," Goetz said.

After the keynote, Goetz told SearchHealthIT that new precision medicine therapies and other treatments could be more effective if clinicians relied more on "microphones" and less on "microscopes."

"I call it the low hanging fruit of precision medicine," he said.

Startups take the spotlight

The Connected Health show is known for its focus on health IT startups, and software and hardware innovation, which in recent years has come to include various forms of wearable health technology.

One of the dozens of panel and keynote discussions was entitled: "Wearables, apps, social media: Flash in the pan or here to stay?"

Panelist Lisa Gualtieri, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, flashed her Fitbit tracking band and said she is cautiously hopeful about the efficacy and staying power of wearables.

At the same time, "just wearing the device does not make you fit," Gualtieri said.

Just wearing the device does not make you fit.
Lisa GualtieriTufts University School of Medicine

The only vendor representative of the four people on the panel, Jon Michaeli, executive vice president of Medisafe, a cloud-based medication adherence app, said he was "quite optimistic" about wearables -- especially when the data they produce is married to analytics.

"We're starting to see the line blurred between what's wearable and what's your phone," Michaeli said.

Medisafe, based in Boston, was one of 10 companies selected by a symposium expert panel from some 150 entrants to participate in an "Innovators Challenge," in which mostly startup vendors showcased their wares in rapid-fire, four-minute presentations on the main stage.

Their products ranged from the eShirt designed by Medical Design Solutions in Milpitas, Calif., which tracks body metrics, to a smartphone app-based "personal weight coach" from Lark Technologies in Mountain View, Calif. Lark's technology works with Apple HealthKit, as do Medisafe and other apps featured at the symposium.

The symposium's founder and resident health tech guru, Joseph Kvedar, M.D., vice president of connected health for Partners, New England's largest health system, noted wryly in his welcoming keynote that "sitting is the new smoking."

That remark was in reference to the profusion of wearable health technology trackers that remind users to stand regularly instead of sitting for prolonged periods.

Kvedar also explained one of the guiding principles of his organization and the symposium, which has become a health IT fixture among developers, users and researchers of mHealth, telemedicine and wearable health technology.

"We're passionate about bringing better design to healthcare," Kvedar said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer or contact @ssutner on Twitter.

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