Health 2.0 Europe Exclusive Keynote Interview: Uwe Diegel, President of iHealthLabs Europe

Uwe Diegel, President of iHealthLabs gives Health 2.0 Europe his insight on the future of connected health care and how effective connected health can be for managing chronic diseases.UweDiegel

Pascal Lardier: iHealth offers a very wide range of connected solutions for health and wellness. How do you describe your business?

Uwe Diegel: iHealth takes the signals of the body and translates them into a meaningful format using tactile platforms. Today there seems to be a confusion between the terms “connected health” and “connected wellness”. The iHealth products make a clear distinction between the two terms.

Connected wellness is about taking everyday data such as weight, number of steps, calorie intake and using them to better manage the general state of the body, whereas connected health is more about the management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or COPD. The iHealth “public” range has products for both connected health and connected wellness. iHealth also has a range of professional devices designed for general practitioners (the iHealth Pro range) to help them convert what is today curative health into predictive health. The iHealth Pro range bridges the gap between patients and doctors and allows the doctor to better manage the chronic conditions of his patients.

PL: You often say connected health and wellness tools are not enough to achieve ‘connected health’? What else is needed? And how do we get there?

UD: Taking a measurement is easy, it is what is done with the measurement that is important. Indeed, telling a person who is obese that he is obese does not serve any purpose. He knows that already. What is important is to not only take the measurement, but also to explain it to the user so that he can then integrate prevention into his every day life, thus changing him into an actor of his own (and of public) health. Connected devices helps to do this because the Apps that are connected to the devices help to give a clear picture of the health of the user, but also allow him to track and trend his results. But I also believe that using connected devices is just the first step towards better health management. I think that future devices will no longer be dependent on smartphones to take the result, because smartphones are intrinsically solutions for rich people, and people who need health management the most are generally poorer people.

Future devices will be connected directly to the cloud and the smartphone (or any phone for that matter) will be used only for interpreting the result and for sending management messages to the user. In this way we will stop simply managing diseases, but will also be managing the patient himself. We should not focus only on disease management but really on whole body management. After all diabetes, overweight, hypertension and COPD are all diseases that tend to walk hand in hand. So we should not only focus on one parameter but rather on the relation between these pathologies.

PL: Your suite of health solutions could be used for wellness but also for chronic disease management. What are the main differences in approaching these two markets?

UD: When you have a chronic disease (diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, etc) you are defined by your lifestyle, because this disease will accompany you for the rest of your life. So it is important that any approach to a disease be focused on the etiology of the disease itself, and not only on the symptoms. So we should really push for better understanding of the various pathologies and the relationships between them. This is health management (as opposed to disease management). And this is really where connected health devices will make a huge difference for the user because they offer better understanding of the relations between the diseases. However, in the mind of the end users, there seems to be no difference between connected wellness and connected health.

We are constantly spewing forth the same platitudes “the frontier between wellness and health is slowly fading away…” but this is not really true in the medical sense. Health is health, and wellness is wellness. The entire worldwide marketing approach to wellness is trying to position itself as a “medical” solution, but this is a fallacy. At iHealth we make a clear distinction between the two different markets, and wellness solutions are sold as wellness solutions and are available in all retail markets, whereas medical solutions are generally only available in pharmacies and medical outlets.

PL: We’ve noted a convergence between the “gadget” trackers for wellness and the medical grade monitoring solutions for disease management, but the spectrum is still wide. Where do you see iHealth on this spectrum? How far are we from physicians using and prescribing your solutions?

UD: One of the big problems of the current industry is that I believe that we are creating an artificial bubble of connected “wellness”. The problem is that it has become too easy to develop a new product and that what was previously an “elite” field (the medical field) is being invaded by barbarians. iHealth is the direct result of 20 years of clinical culture and medical research and validations. Today, anyone with a good idea can simply put it on crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo and within a couple of months has enough money to create a new product, without any clinical validations or fundamental research. This is “gadgetising” the industry in the eyes of the doctor, as every second day a new fancy product comes out that might have a great “public” appeal, but does not have any clinical or medical justification.

The creation of the iHealth Pro range (ECG, 24 hour blood pressure, cardiac output, Ankle Brachial Index, etc) is going a long way to help doctors make the difference between what is connected gadgets and connected medical devices. Because we are issued from 20 years of clinical culture, every iHealth device is clinically validated as a medical device. The iHealth MyVitals is one of only 113 Apps validated for medical use by the FDA. We are in the process of rolling out the iHealth devices and the iHealth Pro devices in about 30 European countries and I believe that in the next year the medical market will be able to tell the difference between the “gadget” market and the real connected health market.

PL: You will be giving a keynote at Health 2.0 Europe 2015 in Barcelona. What are you most excited about? Can you give us a teaser of your presentation?

UD: Health 2.0 is today one of the most important platforms for the development of connected health worldwide, so I am quite excited to be able to participate. We are living in a particularly exciting time of history, where a “perfect storm” of technology is about to be unleashed upon the universe. Never has progress been so rapid, never in the history of the world have so many brains been working together to make the world a better place, and never has computational power been as great as what it is today. An iPhone 6 has 1000 times the computational power of a 1975 Cray supercomputer. So I will be talking about the concept of the 1000 year old man. Is he already born, is technology going to allow us to make this happen?

Already today, just using natural evolution, a child born in 2015 will have a 30% chance of living to 100 years old. The 150-year old man is already born. This is a statistical fact… But this is not taking into account technology, such as DNA sequencing, 3D printing of body parts, big data analysis, nano-technology. Can you imagine a world with no more cancer, no more diseases, no more old age, no more death? This will be what I will talk about in Barcelona.

Uwe Diegel will be keynoting during the Health 2.0 Europe conference on May 20, 2015.

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