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Key takeaways from the Wearable Wellness Track, GIANT Health 2018

Thrive recently hosted the Wearable Wellness Track at GIANT Health 2018, a segment of the show which was packed with lively debate as well as inspiration and insights into the future.

The speakers and panellists who featured throughout the day demonstrated that wearables are becoming key to positive changes in the health technology landscape. Startups and established companies alike are finding ways to leverage technology to address problems in a fragmented NHS system. It was clear from the energy in the room that predictive, preventative, targeted and efficient health is becoming possible. With technology enablement at its core, niche solutions can be developed within a more integrated infrastructure model to deliver compelling solutions, reduce NHS burden and enhance lives.

Pushing the boundaries in assistive technology

Stephen Hicks, Co-founder and Head of Innovation at OxSight, one of Thrive’s valued clients, presented on his fascinating work on technology for partially sighted and legally blind people. With several products on the market already, Thrive are hard at work on one of OxSight’s latest products. In his insightful talk, Stephen drew three principal conclusions: that assistive technologies take a natural path through necessity – normalisation – aspiration; that form factor and cost can be tolerated, if the value is high enough; and that assistive technologies can be a platform technology beyond medical conditions, if based on personalisation.

Disrupt and survive

Craig Robertson, Founder and Managing Director at Epipole, spoke on the topic of ‘Walking the tightrope of doing good, while building a sustainable business’. He highlighted some interesting points using the retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) as an example. ROP is the failure of a premature infant’s retina to grow enough vessels. It represents a lifetime of visual impairment or blindness. Screening can be very simple but the typical desktop fundus camera device on the market costs thousands of pounds.

The alternative is a hand examination by an expert. Craig noted that for babies and children, these examinations for diseases and pathologies like ROP require separation from the parent, and starvation and deformation of the eyeball which can be traumatic. Screenings are often unavailable in developing countries and the consequences of the disease are lifelong. Epipole’s epiCam C device provides an inexpensive (epiCam C is just £4,160) and non-invasive way to detect ROP.  

Epipole is a radical and ethical engineering-led company, tackling the cause of preventable blindness and proving that it is possible to build and sell DW-focused medical devices and make an impact on disease, while sustaining a viable business.

“HealthTech is the new FinTech – that much is clear having spent two days with some of the smartest people I’ve come across for a long time.    However, as we agonise over form function, design and penetrating the NHS, companies like Epipole focus on stripping back the complexity, reducing the cost and making the technology available to some of the most deprived and isolated populations on the planet.” Katherine Church, Funding Lead, Thrive Wearables

Preventing the obvious

Barry Nee, CIO of CareUK, was the ultimate concluding narrative for the event. His emotive talk was grounded in the need for solving big challenges with appropriate solutions. Targeting the need to look after people using subtle, but effective technology, connected to robust and reliable infrastructure was exemplified in their upcoming WellWatch product. Thrive have helped CareUK on their journey and we are really looking forward to seeing WellWatch hit the shelves in the first half of 2019.

“Barry Nee’s emotionally intelligent presentation showed how wearables can connect more than just patients and data. Barry’s personal determination against the odds and Care UK’s head-on tackling of one of society’s most wicked challenges is worth special mention, truly inspirational.“ Matt Pattison, Founder, Ten

Designing wearables for the real world

Matt Pattison, Founder at TEN, chaired the panel session ‘Designing wearables for the real world’, with lively enthusiasm and professionalism, managing to pack out the room. Paul Rinne from GripAble shared his startup story of landing a rehabilitation wearable into the NHS, while David Pearce told us his journey from GP to entrepreneur and angel investor. Fiona Reid from UCL grounded the debate, explaining how hype impacts innovation and development.

Nick Hunn, CTO of WiFore Consulting, spoke about the evolution of the fall alarm. He analysed the dangers, ethics and public backlash against data, as well as 24-hour monitoring on wearable technology and its confrontation with privacy.

Despina Papadopoulos, CEO and Founder of Principled Design, explored the ’embodied self’ in design, asking where our sense of play and dignity is when designing wearables. She also explained how designers can intervene to trick the human brain with design hacks – helping connect and integrate wearables with patients.

We had a fantastic time hosting the Wearable Wellness Track at GIANT Health – a day full of exciting, engaging conversations and debates around the wearables space, and vital insights into its future. Our key take-home from the show: there are inspirational people out there finding ways to build the future. They’re finding ways to interact with the complexities of a fragmented NHS system and looking to a bright future, where predictive, preventative, targeted and efficient health and wellbeing is delivered widely, and with technology enablement at its core.

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