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Samsung, On the Cutting Edge of Digital Health?

When considering the field of medical technology, chances are Samsung does not immediately come to mind. Yet the South Korean electronics company seeks to change the world of digital health, according to Dr. David Rhew, Samsung’s Chief Medical Officer and Head of Healthcare and Fitness.

On Thursday, January 19th, Dr. Rhew presented at the Brigham & Women’s iHub Speaker Series. He began his presentation at the Schlager Family Innovation Lobby by informing attendees about Samsung’s Medical Center located in Seoul. The Samsung Medical Center is considered one of the most advanced health facilities in Asia  . While the facility’s main focus is to advance care and outcomes, it also considers how technology can be used to improve the patient experience. Having this tertiary hospital not only allows Samsung to implement their technology in a clinical setting, but allows access to trusted professionals who can suggest improvements to further enhance the patient experience.

Samsung has also begun to utilize some of their current products to improve care outside of the hospital and support lifestyle changes. Samsung has developed S Health, a connected mobile health platform that tracks user activities related to health, such as monitoring exercise habits and sleep patterns. Additionally, S Health keeps users up-to-date on the latest news and information related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Conveniently, Samsung’s S Health platform works in conjunction with Samsung wearables as well as third party activity tracking wearables. Data from these devices and the S health platform can also be shared with the patient’s physicians so that they can stay connected with patients to better monitor prescribed at-home care. Facilitating this communication between provider and patient could potentially improve patient outcomes.

Dr. Rhew spoke of the importance of these wearables when he recounted a personal experience he had on an airplane almost a year ago. While he was on a flight, a fellow passenger fainted…which was immediately followed by the expected cry of “Is there a doctor on board?” Dr. Rhew immediately sprang from his seat to assist the unconscious passenger. When Dr. Rhew could not detect a pulse, he decided to place his Gear S2 watch (Samsung’s wearable health tracker) around the passenger’s wrist. The wearable detected that the man was maintaining an un-alarming heart rate of 70 bpm, and although Dr. Rhew was unable to determine what caused the man to faint, he was at least able to monitor the passenger’s heart activity until he regained consciousness. Dr. Rhew’s tweet recounting the experience can be found here.

Dr. Rhew’s then shifted his attention from wearables to another commonly used device: the tablet. As Samsung understands it, user experience design is lacking in many healthcare related apps and consumers who are unfamiliar with tablet technology, often find them difficult to use and hard to navigate. By finding a way to tailor software around the user’s preferred means of interaction, Samsung sees an opportunity to engage a new portion of the population. By partnering with Breezie, software aimed at simplifying the user experience with the Internet through tablets, Samsung was able to pilot a study that focused on reducing the debilitating feeling of isolation that is commonly observed in seniors aging in place. Breezie’s easy-to-use software allowed seniors to stay connected with family and friends by simplifying the interface used to make these connections. By utilizing their “ Samsung’s study with Breezie not only made it easier for seniors to stay connected, the elderly users also saw improvements in physical, mental, social, and emotional health. This study spurred collaboration between Samsung, Breezie and the American Cancer Society that will pilot a solution focused on benefiting breast cancer patients.

Dr. Rhew continued his presentation by discussing the early impact that Samsung’s virtual reality technology is having on the world of healthcare. More specifically, Dr. Rhew pointed to findings that showed patients using VR seeing a reduction in pain and anxiety symptoms, and brought up the potential benefits of using VR in a clinical training setting. In the Q&A portion of the presentation, Dr. Rhew advised that, although the statistics found in reducing pain and anxiety may have been due to the novelty of VR to the subjects, Samsung plans to continue its research on VR’s effects on health as it has potential for promising impacts. The latter application Dr. Rhew described has the capacity to shake up the current way of medical training by implementing a virtual practice situation for training surgeons and other health professionals. Such would allow medical students to practice surgical situations virtually as often as needed before performing an actual surgery.

Samsung’s CMO, Dr. David Rhew, continues to do an exemplary job presenting the possibilities and opportunities that Samsung’s technologies could achieve in the world of healthcare. As the healthcare industry continues its adaptation of the latest technological trends, it is evident that Samsung is more than willing to facilitate those transitions, and it appears that before long, Samsung could be a strong name associated with innovative medical technology.

Giovanni Marinelli

Giovanni Marinelli

    Born and raised in New Jersey, Giovanni Marinelli’s love of ice hockey and innovation lead him to Boston where he attended the University of Massachusetts - Boston and played on their Men’s Ice Hockey team. After receiving a BA in Psychology, Giovanni decided to stick with his alma mater where he is currently pursuing an MBA in Healthcare Administration. After an internship under Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Co-Chairman on the Committee on Health Care Financing, Giovanni continues his interest in the Healthcare industry by attending local events and staying informed. He enjoys having quality, thought-provoking conversations with his friends as well as enjoying many of the great restaurants Boston has to offer.

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