BY SAM BRUSCO | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
First of all—though it’s a little late—hap- py new year, readers! You might be
surprised to see my face in this column;
and believe me, I’m just as surprised to be
addressing everyone. It’s admittedly been a
little turbulent here at MDT as of late, but
fear not, because it’s also time to celebrate. MDT is ringing in 2016 by turning
20 years old! (This is especially poignant
because I’m not all that much older…)
If anyone’s interested in organizing a
birthday party, you have my e-mail. No
alcohol, unfortunately—MDT’s still a little
too young to hit the bars.
2015 saw plenty of interesting developments in the wild world of medtech: infection
control heartache, some key acquisitions,
anything and everything possible dancing
with the Io T, and the list goes on. Most
importantly (to me, anyway), was that large
consumer companies have ceased flirting
with healthcare technology development,
and taken the relationship to the next level by
creating entire divisions devoted to medtech.
When I say large companies, I mean the
kings of the castle, names even the most
technologically inept will recognize—Apple,
Google, and IBM. Just to give you a breakdown of how involved these companies
became, let’s look at the contributions of
Apple: The Watch, HealthKit, and
If you’ve read any of my blogs on www.
mdtmag.com, you already know that I’m
not the staunchest of Apple supporters.
Despite that, I must dish out some respect
for the company for taking its user-friendly
OS and tailoring it for health.
The Apple Watch entered Apple into
the fray of wearable health monitoring.
It incorporated ECG monitoring (which,
granted, was a little rocky at first) and
supported a whole slew of health apps.
HealthKit had already existed since 2014,
as a way to track and securely share health
and fitness data via an iPhone, but had to
be beefed up to support the new rush of
Apple Watch users.
ResearchKit, while not originally intended for medical purposes, was co-opted
by medical researchers. Because they can
use the array of peripherals the iPhone
supports (including touch sensors, accelerometers, and the microphone) some researchers are developing health apps based
on the ResearchKit platform: mPower for
Parkinson’s, Asthma Help, and MyHeart
Counts, just to name a few.
Google: Lending Expertise with Key
I’m not talking about the long-awaited
glucose-sensing contact lens (seriously, I’m on
tenterhooks waiting for it) as that’s old news—
but the partnership with Novartis marked the
first of many potentially fruitful health tech
Back in August 2015, a Google/DexCom
(maker of continuous glucose monitors, or
CGMs) partnership was announced. The
intention was to use Google’s miniaturized
electronics platform and analytics software to
help develop smaller, less expensive CGMs.
Also on the diabetes-tackling front, Google
partnered with French drugmaker Sanofi
(largest insulin seller) to, once again, make use
of the company’s miniaturized electronics and
analytics. Finally, in December 2015 Google
announced a partnership with Johnson &
Johnson—now called “Verb Surgical”—to develop smarter robotic surgery technology.
IBM: Paging Dr. Watson!
IBM’s impressive supercomputer, affectionately dubbed Watson, has a remarkable list
of accomplishments: gourmet chef, Jeop-
Carlos Castillo, Biomedical Engineer &
Research Biomedical Engineering Advisor, Loma
Linda University Zhang Neuroscience Laboratory
Marc Dubreuil, Vice President of
Business Development, Farm Design
Stephen Holloway, Associate Director,
Medical Devices and Healthcare IT, IHS
Jinny Lee, Vice President of Strategic Marketing,
Advanced Technology, Edwards Lifesciences
Tom O’Dwyer, Director of Healthcare
Technology, Analog Devices
Michael Pereira, Senior Vice President of
Technology & Operations, Ximedica
Alan Schwartz, Executive Vice President,
mdi Consultants Inc.
Thomas M. Tsakeris, President, Devices and
Diagnostics Consulting Group
Jan Wittenber, Member of IEEE and Fellow at
the Center for Medical Interoperability
Derek Young, Founder & CEO, i360medical Ltd.
When Consumer and
MedTech Worlds Collide
ardy champion, and detecting emotional
tone of e-mails. Now, Watson’s considerable talents are turning to healthcare.
Back in April 2015, IBM announced a partnership with Medtronic (yes, the Medtronic)
to enhance diabetes treatment. Since Watson
can absorb am incredible amount of data,
analyze it, and reveal trends, Medtronic hoped
to use it for developing personalized diabetes
management solutions. Traditional diabetes
management technology would not only
perform its current tasks, but also see trends in
glucose levels users (or even doctors!) might
miss. Watson is also planning on moving into
CVS to help predict people at risk for diabetes
or other chronic diseases.
So what does this mean? Most notably,
these consumer companies should bring
knowledge to the (operating room) table
that medtech companies might not have.
Apple, Google, and IBM all bring a formidable amount of OS and analytics software
expertise that today’s Io T-embedded medical device landscape pretty much requires.
Also, these companies’ involvement brings
a type of marketing that medical device
companies lack simply because they don’t
have the exposure. Any health technology
endeavor labeled with Apple, Google, or
IBM is going to get more exposure because
those are the companies that draw attention.
Seriously, try to think of the last time you
went a day without seeing or hearing about
a Google or Apple product: it’s pretty much
impossible if you own a smartphone.