digital health

Seeking Ambient Intelligence, Using Design Thinking, While Looking for Value at the Burrill Digital Health Conference

The Burrill Digital Health meeting had three thought provoking themes: seeking ambient intelligence, using design thinking as a tool, while looking to create value in the healthcare system.

My first question is: what is ambient intelligence?

In digital health, as sensors grow smaller and more connected and integrated into our environment, ambient intelligence allows the technology to disappear into our surroundings until only the interface is perceivable by users.

Interesting examples include, a smart environment in a hospital room, or a handheld device such as those that give consumers medical education in real time.

Perhaps smart clothes, as shown in fashion and technology week or Nike’s future fuel bands will qualify as ambient technology.

Another theme was, how to bring design thinking into healthcare. David Webster, a partner at IDEO, describes three ways to innovate-

  1. Being “unexpert” allows us to think outside the box – invoke a beginner’s mind
  2. Look for patterns
  3. Hack and dream to discover new ideas

Other IDEO examples can be found at  and design at

But isn’t design just one more tool in an expanding tool kit?

Although I believe in design principles and the importance of design thinking, given the underlying structural challenges, I am not convinced that design can solve the regulatory and reimbursement roadblocks.

Design is not a business model (unless you are a designer).

Which leads us to the last and most important question- about value creation.

Business models in digital health seem to be tricky equations.

Steve Burrill aptly peppered questions about value creation in healthcare, in general and in particular for investors, throughout the meeting. It appears that the important question of value creation remains unanswered or is a work in progress.

Do you think that a digital health IPO this year might be the a-hah! moment, at least on the investor front?

Are we enabling ecosystems? Or just nurturing sprouts?


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