As usual, CES 2017 was a four-day extravaganza of innovations from the smartest connected car innovations to the latest bendable/flexible battery. In the digital health section of the show floor, two companies caught my attention—Israel-based TytoCare and South Korea’s Partron/Croise. Both design and manufacture what I call “personal health hub” devices.
TytoCare’s hub (the TytoHome model on the right) is a half-palm-sized device with accessories that currently include a stethoscope attachment for examining lung fucntions, an Otoscope attachment for ear inspection, a tongue presser attachment for throat examination, etc. The company is developing additional attachments for blood pressure, glucose, and SPO2, and other vital sign measurement/monitoring functions. The hub itself has a built-in infrared basal thermometer and a video camera.
Its software—an app for smartphone or tablet, can support a “live telehealth exam” in which a patient can use the video camera to do a video call with his doctor and follow the doctor’s instructions to take guided examination using the hub or relevant attachments. Or the patient can measure his vital signs and forward the data to his doctor in a “store & forward” use case.
Ophir Lotan, TytoCare’s VP of Product, gave me a demo and pointed out that the app uses visual hints to guide the patient in the self exam process. In my own experiment with the stethoscope attachment, the app showed a front-facing body sketch with four areas on the chest circled and sequenced from 1-4. After I pressed the stethoscope attachment against area #1 on my chest and touched the circle #1 on the app, the circle changed to a counting-down clock for 5 seconds. After that I moved on to the next circled area, and so on. On-app visual hints help a patient to conduct self-measurements more accurately, and a notable differentiating feature of TytoCare’s solution. To enable live exam, TytoCare also offers a clinician solution kit that includes an extra headset for doctors to listen to heart and lung sounds. The best part is the whole kit—hub and its accessories—is the size of a compact lunchbox, perfect for family to carry it around or low cost for a telehealth firm to distribute it to families in mail order. The cost of TytoHome is $299 for now, according to Jeff Cutler, TytoCare’s Chief Revenue Officer. As more accessories are added to its platform, its retail price will likely go up, but still more economical than most home vital sign monitoring solutions on the market—Jeff opined, and I agreed.
Partron’s PMC 100 (left) is a product with similar design philosophy yet not on the market. Jake Shin, Partron’s sales account manager told me that they are working on having the product pass the regulatory and manufacturing hurdles later this year. Partron is an RF technology company producing RF components for mobile devices, communications systems, and CE products. Its dab into the health and wellness device market is new and grouped under its Croise brand. PMC-100 is an integrated health self-check hub, supporting measurements of temperature, body fat, heart rate, ECG, blood glucose, and blood pressure in one compact design. Bluetooth connectivity allows data to be captured by user’s smartphone. The hub doesn’t have a built-in video camera, and I wasn’t given a demo of the hub’s software features that assist user self measurement. Compared with TytoCare, Partron/Croise PMC-100 has a few design holes to fill before it can be truly called a compelling personal health hub.
TytoCare and Partron give me hope that telehealth solutions for home health monitoring will overcome the cost burdles and user experience barriers that set back devices of previous generations. An integrated solution with a compact design and robust software features, like TytoCare’s, will speed up families and doctors acceptance of virtual care experiences and adoption of home health monitoring for both chronic care and preventive care management.