Digital Health

health
The digital revolution continues.  Music, television, books, shopping, politics, and now… health care.

The health industry is poised to be next in the ever-growing list of industrial sectors to be transformed by digital technology.

Already there are electronic medical records, EKGs for smartphones, personal trainer apps, and calorie counters galore! But innovation in health care is booming as innovators launch applications and technologies that make health care more convenient, efficient, and affordable. Here are some of the key trends we see shaping up in the space.

1. Weight loss plans go digital.

Many of us are already familiar with the plethora of apps that promise to give us a healthier lifestyle. Motivational weight loss apps and calorie counters are in no short supply. Take, for example, Skimble’s Workout Trainer app that allows the user to follow along to professional workout routines using their mobile, iPad, or Apple TV.

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Workout Trainer App

Fitbit, the new Nike+ Fuel Band, and Up by Jawbone are also capitalizing on this movement. All three devices monitor consumers’ energy and activity levels and upload the findings to their mobile device. The mobile apps help users keep track of the findings over time, inspiring people to live healthier lifestyles.

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Nike+ Fuel Band

PlateMate is an app that crowd sources nutritional information and determines the caloric value of the user’s meal from a simple photo. While apps of this fashion are exciting in their own right, there have been advances far beyond eating right.

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PlateMate

2. Health monitoring goes full time.

Weight loss apps aside− there are many, potentially less known, applications that have the ability to transform the way we communicate with our doctors and how care is provided. AirStrip Patient Monitoring is one example of what is possible because of digital. The app takes the real time information from a patient’s monitoring system and sends it directly to a physician’s mobile; thus allowing them to check on the patient’s vital signs and blood pressure remotely.

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AirStrip Patient Monitoring

Another invention that makes checking on your health a little easier is the home blood pressure tool from Withings. The device easily hooks up to the user’s iPhone or iPad and measures their systole and diastole blood pressure, as well as their heart rate. The app keeps track of the measurements so that the user can follow their progress over time and get advice and answers as if they were talking directly to their doctor.

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Home blood pressure tool from Withings.

3. Doctors diagnose, Consumers collect.

Dailel Kraft, in his TED talk this past April, offered some insight into the next few years of innovation in the digital health care industry. According to him, apps will soon bring a doctor’s diagnosis directly to the patient without the need to visit the office. To understand how this might work, take the example of CellScope, a device that can turn a smartphone into a high-quality otoscope. With CellScope, parents and doctors can not only see, but also create and share a digital visual history of a child’s ear without ever leaving the home; thus helping to detect and diagnose infections early.

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Could iPhones eventually replace physician otoscopes?

Like CellScope, many devices currently in production will almost eliminate the need for patients to visit their healthcare providers. Scanadu, a startup company, has already begun work on a device that can diagnose different diseases and infections right at home. This handheld device is modeled after the medical tricorder from the Star Trek universe! The device will be able to accurately diagnose without the use of samples or contact with the patient. Scanadu isn’t alone, however, in their quest to create this incredible device. The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize is dangling a $10 million purse to the inventor who first brings the Star Trek tricorder to life.

We might still be a few years away from owning our very own tricorder, but remote health care is a big business, and there they are already many noteworthy gadgets. Like this wireless glucose meter that made it all the way to the semi-finals at the CES 2012 “Last Gadget Standing” event. The glucose meter records the user’s glucose level and then sends these results to a secure online database where the user, family members, and physicians can all access them.

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Glucose Meter

The issue for many of these new technologies is getting FDA approval, which is slowing the adoption of new ideas. Despite this barrier to entry, the digital medical revolution is just getting started, and we’ll continue to see options for people in their quest for a healthy lifestyle.