Daniel Kraft provides glimpse of health tech’s future


The digital age has thrown the healthcare world into a state of feverish change. Though certain elements of the brick-and-mortar hospital remain the same after years, other aspects of medicine are in rapid development. Through new technologies, multiple parts of healthcare have the chance to interact.

“We do have the opportunity now to connect a lot of this new information,” Dr. Daniel Kraft, Singularity University’s faculty chair for medicine and neuroscience and Exponential Medicine’s founder and chair, said in a keynote address at MedCity INVEST on May 1. “As we have these new opportunities … they’re all converging  — essentially super-converging. As entrepreneurs and investors, you want to be looking at this super-convergence because that’s where the opportunity is to innovate, reinvent, reimagine.”

Encouraging attendees to think exponentially instead of linearly, Kraft took a broad look at where healthcare is headed, particularly when it comes to technology. Though wide-ranging and fast-moving, his presentation narrowed in on a few areas.

Health and prevention
Individuals’ behaviors impact the majority of chronic costs in healthcare, Kraft noted. Wearables can play a role in assisting with this issue.

But it’s moved beyond only wearables — there are now technologies like “inside’ables” (chips underneath one’s skin that can track vital signs), “ring’ables” (which track aspects like sleep) and “breath’ables” (which monitor one’s oral health).

Mental health
Within the behavioral health space, companies like Woebot are leveraging technology to provide therapy chatbots to consumers, while entities like Beyond Verbal are using voice to provide insight on emotional health. Other companies are enabling consumers to “game-ify” their meditation experience.

“You can get your own genome done for about $1,000 today,” Kraft said. “It comes with an app.”

He also mentioned Helix, an Illumina spinout that set out to be a hub for consumers to obtain genetic tests, and the work it’s doing in the realm.

“Watch the whole ‘omics space,” Kraft suggested.

Despite the demise of Theranos, there are plenty of opportunities in the field to make a mark. The digital stethoscope is emerging as a new type of diagnostic tool. Even the Apple Watch is becoming a diagnostic, Kraft said. Platforms can make it easier to do a remote ear exam, and apps can listen to a cough and diagnose pneumonia.

Even a broad look at these few areas unveils the value in connecting the dots between technology and the healthcare environment. And Kraft appears to be taking his own advice. His Exponential Medicine program is moving into the prescription health app service space, he said.

Looking down the road, the goal is to collaborate and move from “sick care” to a more proactive approach.

“I think the future is going to be … data [and] convergence amongst many technologies,” Kraft said. “We can all become futurists. It’s our opportunity to go out there and not predict the future but hopefully create it together.”

Photo: Jack Soltysik