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Greetings from the future of health care!

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More than 350 participants gathered in La Jolla for the Wireless Health 2011 Academic/Industry Conference in October, 2011. The attendees represented a broad spectrum of academia, industry, government and clinical practice, representing 15 countries. They shared a commitment to the power of collaboration to improve access to health care by accelerating the development of innovative new wireless health products and services.

The second in an annual conference series, Wireless Health 2011 was organized by the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance with the support of a steering committee and technical program committee from leading academic institutions and companies. The conference was built around a core of peer-reviewed research including the presentation of 13 papers and 21 technical demonstrations. This research focused on new advances in engineering that address some of the core technology problems facing the field of wireless health today, including development of new sensors and monitoring systems, assessment methodologies and algorithms, and energy efficiency.

The conference began on Monday, Oct. 10, with pre-session industry tutorials, presented by leading industry members from Analog Devices, Artin Engineering, mc10, Texas Instruments and Zarlink. This year’s tutorials focused on the Anatomy of Wearable Sensors, from principles to the practice of wearable devices with the latest semiconductor technologies, with the goal of developing scalable products and services in Wireless Health.

The main conference sessions were opened on Tuesday, Oct. 11, by Conference Co-General Chair Dr. Eric Topol, who described the “creative destruction of medicine” through the transformative merging of digital infrastructure and medicine. In his keynote address, Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, who described his company’s increasing commitment to expanding the technology ecosystem in support of wireless health innovations and demonstrated a new wireless transmission system for ECG and other sensors that is in development at Qualcomm Labs. On Tuesday afternoon the attendees were treated to the first public viewing of Ford’s in-car health and wellness solution. Prasad Venkatesh of Ford, Anand Iyer of WellDoc, and James Dallas of Medtronic, moderated by WLSA CEO Rob McCray, discussed their collaboration on the development of a diabetes monitoring system that leverages existing technology to bring health care to the consumer in a convenient place where many of us spend hours each day. In an afternoon keynote address, Gene Frantz, principal fellow at Texas Instruments, reminded the audience that it is often the consumer who comes up with the best uses for new technology, using it in ways never imagined by the inventor.

A recurring theme of the conference was the cultural tension that appears during the convergence of technology and medicine. Many of the keynote speakers and panelists who participated in the conference, particularly Wendy Nilsen and other representatives of the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, called for more multidisciplinary work focused on definition of specific problems and desired outcomes, to ensure that new technological advances have practical applications that can truly impact our global health and health care needs. Farnam Jahanian, assistant director of NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate, and William Riley, chair of NIH’s mHealth Inter-Institute, spoke on their respective agencies work to fund and promote such interdisciplinary work.

A second theme was the need to reconsider the process by which new wireless health technologies are brought to fruition in the market. Randomized Clinical Trials (RCT), the standard of practice in development of new medical technology, move much too slowly to keep up with the rapid turnover and adoption rates of wireless technology. As consumers and health care practitioners rely more on their personal phones and devices to provide them with health care information, they demand that medical technology keep pace with consumer electronics. The ability for monitoring technologies such as sensors and smart phone applications to collect, process and store massive amounts of data compared to traditional monitoring methods means that users can be carefully tracked, perhaps allowing for a shift toward more post-market rather than pre-market regulation of certain new technologies.

The Wireless Health 2012 conference will be held Oct. 22-25, 2012 in La Jolla. The initial call for papers will be released in Nov. 2011, with a particular focus this year on increasing applications by collaborative multidisciplinary teams that include clinical researchers and behaviorists as well as engineers. The 2012 meeting will also provide an expanded Industry and Clinical Tutorial series. As in 2011, the Industry Tutorials will focus on principles and best practices for a specific sector of wireless health technology. The Clinical Tutorials will inform the research, engineering and product development communities about the pressing needs and practical limitations of wireless health systems in real world applications, with the goal of encouraging purpose-driven research and further collaboration between disciplines.

I hope to see you in our future conferences and activities.

Robert B. McCray
President & CEO, Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance

Join WLSA and many of our Partners at the mHealth Summit, Dec. 5-7, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Save the Dates:
WLSA Wireless Health Convergence Summit
May 22-24, 2012 | San Diego, CA

Wireless Health 2012
Oct. 22-25, 2012 | San Diego, CA

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