Medicine and technology are on a path to collide


Published: Monday, March 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.

An app a day will keep the doctor away.

While grandma had her tried but true home cures involving fruit, the emerging field of wireless medicine portends healthcare that revolves around one familiar device — your smartphone.

If you’re like me, you may have already stumbled on apps that measure levels of deep sleep by detecting your movement through the night. Others may have found apps that help count caloric intake or monitor the benefits of a morning trip to the gym. They are a great start.

Wireless medicine goes much deeper and the limits appear endless.

One of the world’s leading cardiologists, Eric Topol, is a trendsetter in this movement. Topol is getting the word out about the iDoctors of the future through speeches and even a primetime story with NBC’s Brian Williams. Topol demonstrates how a patient with a modified smartphone can hold the device to his chest and instantly see every rhythmic beat of his heart and share that data with his doctor. A simple Band-Aid type sensor measures all sorts of vital statistics.

I can just see the Facebook posts bragging about good blood pressure or oxygen count.

What about day-to-day ailments like the flu or the common cold? Smartphones have the potential to test saliva, blood, sweat and even urine. Not sure I want to involve the last one on my iPhone just yet, but you get the idea. Why wait at the doctor’s office when you can simply Skype in? Just stick out your tongue and say “ah” via Facetime on an iPhone.

Think of the implications of having a wireless ultrasound sensor that displays images straight to your mobile device. Put it over your heart and the doctor can remotely see a live video of your heart. Expectant mothers can watch the baby do summersaults in the womb and instantly share with the dad-to-be, anywhere around the world.

Diabetes is a life or death condition that affects millions of people everyday who must closely monitor their glucose levels with shots and pricks. Could this be done with a smartphone? As you can guess, the answer is yes, but it goes even further. Once again, by wearing a Band-Aid like sensor on the abdomen, a person can monitor their glucose levels before ordering a meal or having a drink. All the crazy calculations? Let an app take care of that.

While this all sounds like futuristic Star Trek stuff, the truth is it’s today’s technology. Tomorrow’s technology revolves around internal monitoring and goes much further. Imagine getting an alert on your smartphone that warns of an impending heart attack or stroke long before the event happens.

And I thought the little flashlight app was cool.

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