Digital devices can now be small enough to carry everywhere we go. But there’s BIG data that they can bring. We are now facing a moment of convergence between science and technology, which has revealed many opportunities for growth in the digital health world, which will only continue from here on out. Constant care maintenance with endless possibilities, research with almost limitless reach, and organic, continuous conversation that will face unprecedented growth in the future decades to come.
According to a TED Talk given by Eric Topol on “The Wireless Future of Medicine” in 2009, he says, "we'll soon use our smartphones to monitor our vital signs and chronic conditions”. (Spoiler Alert: Think Apple’s iPhone integrating this into their OS system!) The future of mobile medicine will contribute positively to keep unnecessary patients out of hospital beds, as individuals will have a better understanding of their health through portable sensors. These new technological developments are the key to how patients can play an active role in constantly monitoring their own health. Indicators such as prediction of diabetes, breast cancer, sudden cardiac death, and atrial fibrillation can be determined by handheld wireless technologies displayed on small screens, like the iPhone or tablets. This new usage of technology won’t necessarily replace doctors but better utilize the available resources and assist doctors in their pursuit in providing the best patient care. Staying up-to-date will no longer be a concern, since all data will be in real time. Imagine seeing your own heartbeat rhythm on your mobile device by just wearing a bandaid-like device.
As I mentioned in my previous post on mobile medicine, the increasing cost of healthcare services necessitates some creativity to move forward to build a healthier nation. From small start-ups to large nonprofits to huge public corporations everyone is starting to think how they can use technology tap into the world of health. It’s no longer a question of if, but an exclamation of when digital technology will become the new norm for medicine.
How will this happen? A couple things I found to be very useful in the development of digital health technologies:
1. Build a leadership team that believes wholeheartedly in the campaign from the inside out.
For example, at Tidepool, the goal is to build a smart platform to communicate diabetes data through cloud-based technology to provide secure patient data in real time, integrated health records, and data visualization for both providers and patients to access. The core team consists of talented individuals that either have a passion to make a difference, have Type 1 Diabetes themselves, or have the clinical or technological background to support the growth of the technology. They are proudly a non-profit organization, to remain closely connected to the cause and find new innovative ways to help those suffering with Type 1 Diabetes.
2. Find ways for user generated content through social media to fuel research and get others on board.
The Health eHeart project is a data collection study to generate masses of information regarding heart health and heart disease through social media and smartphones. By using social media to organically gather data, they aspire to build the largest study regarding heart health than ever before. Perhaps this can lead to the understanding of the predictive factors, the cause, and prevention of heart disease in the future. Cool huh?
3. Find an innovative, yet easy to use concept design.
Apple is often known for its simplicity and user-friendly interface. The words out that even Apple is even jumping on board with their new Healthbook App which will combine both healthcare and fitness tracking to enable individuals to track things such as: fitness and weight to heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, hydration, and sleep tracking. Hopefully it will be integrated into their OS8 of their upcoming version of the iPhone. According to an article in Wired, “In other words, Apple Healthbook won’t just promote the fitness of iPhone users. It will boost the well being of an entire ecosystem of healthcare technology companies."
Small devices can and really will make a BIG difference, it’s just a matter of time.