Digital health and fitness trend up at SXSW

By Brian Dolan
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This week the increasingly crowded tech event SXSWi descended on Austin, Texas, and -- much more so than in years past -- it has had a prominent health and fitness bent. Below are a few excerpts from health and fitness-related reporting coming out of SXSW:

South by Southwest Boost Health-Care Focus: "As we're seeing people spin out of Facebook, Google and Twitter, we are seeing a real predilection toward doing something in health," Ted Maidenberg, a venture capitalist at Social+Capital Partnership, said during a panel session at SXSW. "All they see are dollar signs, and they are really excited about changing this trillion-dollar industry." 

Cutting Through the Wearable Hype: SXSW Explores Issues of Value, Retention: “Long-term engagement is hard,” said Martha Wofford, VP of CarePass, Aetna during a Connected Fitness 2.0 panel at SXSW. “For me, I think it’s about insight and when I can start to see something or learn something that causes me to change my behavior. That naturally has value and has meaning, but it’s really hard for most of these devices and apps to be personalized enough that the insight really resonates.”

Azumio, Salutron Describe Frontiers of Health Wearables Beyond FDA Approval: During a panel session at SXSW, the Q&A turned to the liabilities of measuring people's health, and Azumio's Jennifer Genz pointed out that her company's apps “can track everything for your personal well-being, but we don't give you an actual diagnostic recommendation,” meaning, the apps are outside the FDA medical device clearance process because they are not claiming to be diagnostic. Grenz discussed what she called “horror stories” about Azumio customers who used their apps to go to the emergency room just before they had a heart attack. 

23andMe admits FDA order 'significantly slowed up' new customers: "It has slowed up the number of people signing up,” 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojciki told attendees at SXSW. “But we have 650,000 people in our database and are being inundated with requests from academics and foreign partners. We have more of this data than anyone else in the world… We are pioneers. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs but we have lots of tenacity to push on through. It will take time money and effort to figure out the path forward.”

Health data data everywhere, let’s human-scale it -- Report from #SXSW #SXSH: Finally, health economist Jane Sarasohn Kahn has been documenting her findings over at Health Populi -- well worth a read: "The forecast for the supply side of health sensor-laden devices is bullish. Wearables are the new-new thing talked-about in SXSW sessions, and mentioned in a handful of educational sessions two weeks ago at the more traditional industrial-vibed HIMSS annual conference (focused on institutionally-based electronic health records and big data analytics companies). But wearables and the proliferation of health data are not the end-game: they are the means to driving behavior change in individuals (the N of 1), and population health improvement for the N of many."

 

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