From pocket ultrasound devices to geo-tracking digital first aid kits, do-it-yourself consumer medical devices are becoming more sophisticated, real-time and universally compatible. It is estimated that in the United States alone, revenue from digital health technology and services will exceed $5.7 billion in 2015, compared with $1.7 billion in 2010, according to a report released in February by Park Associates. Apps will no doubt account for a huge portion of this, but health devices can actually extend the capabilities of apps, and in many cases, collect more detailed and personalized data.
Sure, some health gadgets on the market are fantastically futuristic, some are impractical and others pure novelty – but in this edition of the Health Digital Check-up, we are going to take a look at some health gadgets and gizmos that add real value for health monitoring and management. If you feel like you have too many devices to keep track of these days, rest assured, you can centralize your information in most EHR (Electronic Health Record) and PHR (Personal Health Record) services, such as Google Health and Microsoft’s HealthVault.
Proteus Raisin Personal Monitor
The Proteus Raisin Personal Monitor is worn like a Band-Aid and offers tracking and analysis of heart rate, physical activity, body position and logged activities. The information is then communicated via Bluetooth to any computer or cell phone. This is as part of Proteus’ integrated intelligent medicine system, which also includes ingestible physiologic sensors that are swallowed by a patient to communicate physiological data from inside the body to computerized devices, including mobile phones. This might sound somewhat unsettling, but the Proteus Raisin Personal Monitor has received 510(k) clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration.
Withings Blood Pressure Monitor
Withings created a Wi-Fi-enabled cuff for hypertension patients, which can measure blood pressure and pulse. The free Withings app then displays your results in simple graphs, allowing the user to detect and track trends. From that platform, the user can share information with a peer support group on Facebook or Twitter, or send data to a physician or a PHR. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults in the US has high blood pressure and does not receive treatment – for many of us, this device is not just for good measure, it is a necessity.
The FitBit is a calorie counter, pedometer and sleep quality tracker all in one. Users can log their weight and activities, set goals and track progress. It is an easy to wear clip-on device containing a 3D motion sensor, which transmits data to a wireless base station anytime you walk nearby, and can be fully integrated with Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault. When pressed, FitBit displays vital information and a blue flower, which represents how active and healthy the user is. If you have been exercising and eating nutritious food, the flower will grow strong and longer. If you have been on a pub crawl, there is no hiding it – your flower will shrivel.
This Bluetooth-enabled device was created by Entra Health Systems to allow diabetes patients to gauge their blood glucose sugar levels. Patients test a small blood sample in the MyGlucoHealth Wireless meter and, using the MyGlucoHealth Patient Portal, can digitally transmit and evaluate their daily readings using their cell phone, or send the data to their physicians and/or PHR service. This platform also provides SMS advice to patients on what they should eat, relative to their logged readings. Now that’s a real smart phone.
A prevailing question in this ‘Quantified Self’ health movement is whether or not these monitoring devices are getting to, or being used by, the people who need them the most. The adoption of these health technology tools is not just consumer driven – it relies on physicians and practitioners to educate patients about the tools, and ensure they are being used diligently and effectively. Through the support of the health care industry, these tools will show their true value, and be distinguished from any other kitsch, fad gadget on the market.
Disclosure: Microsoft is an Edelman client.