Share By Giovanna Fabiano
Tech companies are moving into the digital health sector, with wearable devices that monitor blood levels, oxygen, and more.
Once focused on devices aimed at a younger audience (think cellphones and MP3 players), even tech giants Google and Apple have charged into the healthcare market.
And given the ubiquity of both iPhones and Android smartphones, experts say both companies’ push into healthcare makes sense.
“The hub of the future of medicine is the smartphone,” Dr. Eric Topol, a renowned cardiologist and author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine, told Real Business.
Today, it’s possible to transform smartphones into medical devices, just by snapping on a small piece of hardware.
Topol, who practices at Scripps Clinic in San Diego, even coined a term for the hardware: ADD-apters. (Pronounced “Add-apters.”)
“Your blood pressure, rhythm, all of these things, you can test from outside the body through the things that you wear … you can also convert a phone into a lab-testing device with these ADD-apters,” Topol said.
“Everything in medicine is moving to a wireless device in the bloodstream. You’ll be able to do X-rays through your smart phone, ultrasounds, you name it.”
Here are five technological innovations that Topol already uses in his daily practice:
- Smartphone-enabled heart monitors: If you have heart rhythm problems, you don’t have to race to the emergency room every time there’s an irregularity. With these types of devices that you connect to your smartphone, patients put their fingers on the sensors and an electrocardiogram can be read by the computer.
- Digital pills: These ingestible pills have sensors in them that monitor when a pill was taken and promptly alert your doctor. “There’s a chip in the pill, so you know the moment it hit the patient’s stomach,” Topol said, and the chip wirelessly sends a message to your smartphone. This comes in handy with deadly diseases such as Tuberculosis, Topol said, so the physician “knows exactly that the person took the medicine every day.”
- Oxygen Saturation Monitors: Put a device, such as the Pulse Oximeter, on your finger and get the oxygen saturation of your blood. The devices connect to your phone and produce analytics that screen for sleep apnea and monitor your oxygen levels throughout the day and night.
- Blood pressure monitor: A cuff you wear on your wrist that wirelessly shares data with your smart0phone. “I use these every day. I like them because my patients take a lot more blood pressure readings, and they’re inexpensive to make.”
- Digital otoscope: Worried that your child has an ear infection? Devices like this “ADD-apter,” use your smartphone’s camera to check the ear drum, and then, connected wirelessly through an app, analyze the results. “The whole exam can be done through your phone,” Topol said.
“I use all these things with my patients,” said Topol. “We’re moving completely into digital medicine and there’s no reason not to … patients love to have their data, even ones you never suspect will be into it.”
“That’s how you get a view of how medicine is changing. Over time, the old analogue doctor is an endangered species.”