Abbott Labs Board Chairman/CEO Robert Ford could hardly have picked a better time for his CES keynote address, the first by a healthcare company representative in CES history. Ford arrived with Abbott having gathered no less than five CES 2022 Innovation Awards and also in the wake of the company’s heady 2021 year of achievement, which included FDA approvals for its innovations and, not least of all, the creation of the Abbott Center for Malnutrition Solutions, an innovation hub dedicated to reducing malnutrition around the world. A collaboration between Abbott and external nutrition experts and partners, the Abbott Center aims to identify, treat and prevent malnutrition for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
But Ford came less to praise Abbott specifically than to explain how Abbott’s innovations fit into the company’s focus on “human-powered health.” Abbott’s innovations are empowering the populace to take charge of its own health issues, thereby creating an entirely new doctor-patient dynamic in which both parties have all the essential data at hand with which to plan a path forward. To underscore his message, Ford introduced an all-star lineup of users, partners, scientists and specialists to illustrate the diverse ways Abbott technologies are altering the healthcare landscape.
“These are stories about the convergence of health and technology to empower human lives,” said Ford, a native of Brazil who has been with Abbott for 25 years. “Healthtech is at an inflection point. We’re creating a future that will bring you and your loved ones care that is more personal and precise, and will take human capabilities to entirely new levels. A future where people can practically manage their own health—decentralize and democratize healthcare. With the right tools we can give everyone the best chance to live their best lives.”
For example: Sherri Shepherd, a co-host of The View whose family history of diabetes continues with her, offered a vibrant account of how Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre “changed my life—it didn’t hurt, I didn’t need the fingerpricks anymore, it gives me my readings right on my phone, it’s accurate and it holds me accountable. I’m breaking the multigenerational diabetes history in my family.” Tyrone Morris, a young man who suffered from congestive heart failure, offered vivid testimony of how Abbott’s CardioMEMS system helped manage his care until he could get a life-altering heart transplant a year ago this month. He now leads a support group helping others in situations similar to his.
At every turn, Ford dazzled and inspired the audience with the innovations he was introducing: from the amazing promise of “the connected care experience” (as detailed by Dr. Leslie Saxon, executive director, professor of medicine and clinical scholar, USC Center for Body Computing and an Abbott partner for 25 years) in which “continuous data provides the earliest warning of a serious event and it can be corrected or mitigated before it happens”; to an astounding video presentation by Dr. Fiona Gupta, Director of Movement Disorders, Mount Sinai Neurology in which the doctor’s handheld Abbott neuromodulation device completely calmed a Parkinson’s patients severe tremors without the patient ever leaving his home or Dr. Gupta leaving her office; to an enthusiastic presentation by Dr. Hakeem Bouzamondo, head of Abbott’s nutrition R&D team, hailing the use of technology to monitor “the composition of your gut biom—we would shift the paradigm from looking at only one organ to seeing a connected ecosystem.”
And then Ford topped himself by introducing a video featuring Olympic marathoner Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya, the first to run a sub-two-hour marathon, who trained with Abbott’s Libre Sense glucose sport biosensor. Kipchoge minced no words in singing the device’s praises in giving him molecular glucose data every minute during his workouts. Which in turn led to a special announcement by Ford introducing a new Abbott family of biowearable sensors, dubbed Lingo, to track key signals in the body “to better understand what it’s telling us.” In addition to a glucose sensor, Lingo will include sensors monitoring levels of Ketone, Lactate and Alcohol, and will be available across the board, for elite athletes to “those just beginning their fitness journey.”
“A future for everyone,” Ford declared enthusiastically. “Human-powered health—it puts you at the center of your health. New year, new life!”