Healthcare and Technology: A Brave New World?

When technology giants Apple and Google begin acquiring companies that have developed healthcare applications or equipment you know that mobile healthcare is a growing business. It is predicted that the next version of Apple’s IOS mobile operating system will come with built-in apps focused on measuring and improving our health while Google has already demonstrated ‘smart’ contact lenses that will measure your glucose levels by analysing tears. Another technology giant, Intel, recently acquired a company called Basis Science that produces a wearable health tracker called the “Basis Band”. The device, worn on the wrist, is fitted with skin temperature and perspiration sensors, can measure the wearer’s heart rate and blood flow as well as track and analyse sleep patterns. Many of us grew up watching Doctor McCoy from the original Star Trek series, (no, I’m not a ‘Trekkie’) waving his tricorder over a collapsed crew member to measure their ‘vital signs’ and proffer a diagnosis. Well science fiction isn’t far away from becoming science fact. Check out this link: Tricorder

On my smartphone I already use an app to record the number of steps I take each day using an in-built motion sensor. I have an app that will analyse the barcode on food labels and give me the details of salt and fat content and recommend healthier alternatives. As a sufferer of chronic kidney disease my blood pressure needs to be checked regularly and I have an app that lets me record, analyse and share my blood pressure results via several different methods including attaching a weekly report to an email which I can then send to my renal support team. It doesn’t take a great leap to imagine your doctor prescribing an app to accompany your medication which would allow the doctor to monitor your condition remotely. This would improve the quantity and quality of data available to them to make more informed decisions about our on-going healthcare. Who among us hasn’t protested that our blood pressure results are lower when measured at home than they are when we attend our regular outpatient appointments.

Should we welcome this area of technological advancement? Personally, I do but not without the odd caveat. For instance I’d be happier if the app I was using came with the knowledge that it had been developed by medical professionals with input from patients, that the data collected and shared was secure and that the analysis of that data was undertaken by the consultant responsible for my care and not passed to someone who happened to be more at ease with the technology involved. It may be a generational thing but there are still too many professional people, doctors included, who wear their technophobia as a badge of honour.

In the future, the richness of the data we can make available to our doctors and consultants, combined with the advances in the understanding of genetic and lifestyle factors, will enable us all to have a holistic view of our health and perhaps take preventative measures before chronic conditions develop. This prospect may be an anathema to some; I say bring it on!


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