Sunday, January 11, 2015

Smartphone Medicine 2015

Once again, the new year is full of predictions. In the Wall Street Journal's Saturday Essay, Eric Topol (a cardiologist by the way!) shares his vision of how smartphones will change medicine.  Two things struck me:  1) 'Wow' - this is really going to change everything we currently do today and how the emphasis will move to 'health' (early detection and prevention of disease) that is driven by people rather than doctors and 2) a sense of Déjà vu - you see, it was this time last year that I posted on this blog about SmartPhone Medicine.

Nonetheless, this article is very provocative.  Here are a few excerpts:

Over the past decade, smartphones have radically changed many aspects of our everyday lives, from banking to shopping to entertainment. Medicine is next. 

With the smartphone revolution, an increasingly powerful new set of tools—from attachments that can diagnose an ear infection or track heart rhythms to an app that can monitor mental health—can reduce our use of doctors, cut costs, speed up the pace of care and give more power to patients.

Let’s say you have a rash that you need examined. Today, you can snap a picture of it with your smartphone and download an app to process the image. Within minutes, a dedicated computer algorithm can text you your diagnosis. That message could include next steps, such as recommending a topical ointment or a visit to a dermatologist for further assessment.

Even bigger changes are in the works. Using wearable wireless sensors, you can use your smartphone to generate your own medical data, including measuring your blood-oxygen and glucose levels, blood pressure and heart rhythm. And if you’re worried that your child may have an ear infection, a smartphone attachment will let you perform an easy eardrum exam that can rapidly diagnose the problem without a trip to the pediatrician. 

Even bigger changes are in the works. Using wearable wireless sensors, you can use your smartphone to generate your own medical data, including measuring your blood-oxygen and glucose levels, blood pressure and heart rhythm.


Other wearable sensor tools now being developed include necklaces that can monitor your heart function and check the amount of fluid in your lungs, contact lenses that can track your glucose levels or your eye pressure (to help manage glaucoma), and head bands that can capture your brain waves. Someday, socks and shoes might analyze the human gait to, for instance, tell a Parkinson’s patient whether his or her medications are working or tell a caregiver whether an elderly family member is unsteady and at risk of falling.

Take asthma attacks. A teenager who’s prone to wheezing in gym class could get comprehensive data on environmental exposures such as air quality and pollen count, along with data on physical activity, oxygen concentration in the blood, vital signs and chest motion; their lung function can be assessed through their smartphone microphone, and their nitric-oxide levels can be sampled via their breath. Then that information could be combined with the data from every other tracked asthma patient—and trigger a warning, delivered by text or voice message on the teenager’s phone, that an attack is imminent and tell the teenager which inhaler would prevent it.

As I said, very thought provoking!

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