Feature Article

An Internet of You: Bringing Sensors Out of the Clinic into Our Lives


Posted in Medical Data by Brian Buntz on July 17, 2012

The healthcare system is ripe for disruption, according to some technologists. Ubiquitous sensors will be the change agents. Get ready for the “big kaboom.”


Despite the availability of powerful sensing technology, most people are ignorant of their own health metrics. We often know more about the health of our technological products than we do about our own bodies. As chairman and CEO of X Prize Foundation Peter Diamandis, MD, explains: “Today, my car, my airplane, my computer know more about their health status than I do, which is insane.” One of the main reasons for this knowledge gap is the average person’s lack of access to medical sensing technology, most of which is gated within doctors’ offices, hospitals and clinics. To monitor health metrics, most people only have a thermometer and a scale, which they rarely use.

 

The Power of Decentralisation
Famed economist Clayton Christensen has pointed out that as technology evolves, it has the power to spur disruptive innovations that make products simpler and less expensive and, hence, more accessible to a broad base of end users.

The computing industry is an obvious example of this principle at work. In the 1960s and 1970s, computers were enormous, expensive and difficult to use. One had to be practically an expert to operate one.

The debut of the microprocessor led to the development of the personal computer and, eventually, devices such as tablet computers and smartphones. In addition, computing technology, which costs a fraction of what it once did, is now ubiquitous in modern society. The smartphones that we carry around have billions of times more computing power than the large mainframes from decades ago. And computing technology has never been easier to use; it has been deskilled, converting the vast majority of the world’s population into regular users.

Eileen Bartholomew
Eileen Bartholomew

Healthcare: Next in Line for Disruption

The healthcare industry is poised to follow a trajectory similar to numerous other industries that have had their disruptive moments over the course of the past decades. “The whole context of deskilling and disrupting industries has been happening across so many other places, such as banking and finance, design and manufacturing,” says Eileen Bartholomew, Vice President, prize design, at X Prize Foundation. “Healthcare is kind of the last hold out of that transition—of that idea of exponential technology becoming cheaper, more accessible and easier to use,” she says. “I think health is the last domino to fall. And when it does fall, it is going to be a big kaboom.”

And with that kaboom, consumers, or, in this case, patients, will become empowered as never before. “[In the future], you may know more about your body and your health metrics than your doctor,” Bartholomew says. “Everybody, to some extent, can become their own doctor. And the health system will be used for what it is intended: that is, when something goes wrong, to help fix it.”

While such statements can sound radical, the status quo is not sustainable. “[This transformation ultimately] is not about replacing doctors, and replacing the system, it is about using what we have a heck of a lot more efficiently and judiciously,” Bartholomew says. “We have to change the conversation, and the only way to do that is to stop using the mass of people as a burden and turn them into an asset,” Bartholomew says. “Healthcare should be an asset for everyone. No one cares more about his or her health than the patient.” To fuel this transformation, patients need better tools and better information.

Advances in sensing technology will be a key driver of patient empowerment. “We envision a future where sensors will become not only more advanced and different and unique, but accessible in [unprecedented] ways,” says Bartholomew.

“You will see sensors embedded in your life—whether that is your phone, clothes, home or car,” she predicts. “They will not just be measuring the performance of the ‘Internet of things’ but the ‘Internet of you’—your metrics and your normal across-health information.”

In many ways, this transition will simply be an extension of what has come before. Clinicians have long used vital signs and biomarkers, for instance, to monitor patient health. But advances in sensing technology also will provide new metrics that will broaden our understanding of what it means to be healthy. That could encompass “novel ways of looking at everything from activity levels to sleeping patterns in a way that can predict, prevent, manage or even treat diseases in ways that we haven’t thought of,” Bartholomew says.

Competing to Disrupt Healthcare
To help make the future of healthcare a reality, The X Prize Foundation has launched two competitions:

  • The Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, a US$10-million award that seeks to spur the development of a “portable, wireless device in the palm of your hand that monitors and diagnoses your health conditions,” according to the prize page.
  • The Nokia X Challenge, a US$2.25-million award to encourage breakthroughs in sensing technology to “bring about entirely new ways to monitor, access and improve consumer health.”

The ultimate goal of the prizes is to create a new healthcare technology ecosystem. While the winners of the competition will be recognised and rewarded, the real goal is to disrupt medicine and help bring it into a new age.

“The history of medicine happens behind behind closed doors,” Bartholomew says. “It is administered only by people who have [substantial] training.”

A growing number of people are beginning to view the healthcare status quo as broken. “I think we are starting to see frustration at every level—not just at the innovation level but at the patient level,” Bartholomew says. “There is frustration with the ‘go to the mountain approach’ to healthcare because we know that health happens everyday and there are known things that you can do to improve your health but you don’t have the tools to do it. The tools are still locked behind glass.”

The frustration is beginning to escalate among developers of medical technology as well as in patient communities. Part of the aggravation comes from the fact that our culture has seen technology revolutionise so many aspects of our lives while the basic healthcare dynamic remains largely unchanged. The patient gets sick, takes a trip to the doctor and sits in a waiting room before finally seeing the physician. The limitations of this model are even more apparent in rural areas. In many cases, patients with a significant health condition must drive long distances to see a specialist, who is only able to draw on a limited amount of patient data.

By contrast, look at how the banking industry has been transformed. “Fifty years ago, you couldn’t imagine accessing your banking information without going through a bank teller,” Bartholomew says. “Now, your entire financial [record] is transparent and available online—to anyone at any time.”

“We will see that same transition in healthcare. It will become a 24/7 personally owned thing,” she says. “We don’t see any other way to support the current system [given the] scale and growth that it will need to deliver the kind of care that we are going to have.”

Before launching the two aforementioned competitions, the X Prize Foundation spent months in meetings and doing research to figure out how to bring about the “deskilling and disrupting of medicine,” says Bartholomew. “The two concepts that emerged from this, one of which is the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, are seeking to push not only the technology of sensing but also its integration, miniaturisation, and adaptation (meaning, understandability) into a device that a consumer could use for self-diagnosis,” she says.

The organisation realised that making their future vision of healthcare a reality would require several significant advances. “In addition to the integration work that will be required for tricorder teams, a lot of breakthroughs have to happen in sensor and sensing technology,” she says. Sensors perform the actual measurements; sensing technology collects data and makes a “so what?” analysis, Bartholomew adds.

The Biggest Splash in Healthcare
Time will tell which sensors and sensing technologies make the biggest splash in healthcare. Bartholomew says that she has great expectations for novel sensors that can detect central nervous system and brain-based disorders. Such sensors also can collect information on everything from mood to personality and behaviour. “This is still a big black box,” she says. “I am really excited to see the development of sensors that bring more clarity.”

Bartholomew cites Affectiva, a company that is developing novel ways of tracing emotion based on facial recognition and other types of information to assess levels of mood and emotion. “That is the beginning of cracking the code to brain-based behavioural diseases, brain-based function, mood, personality and all of the things that so many people suffer from,” she says. “People have no information and very little guidance to treat or manage some of their diseases. So I am looking forward personally to seeing some breakthroughs in that field that could change the way we diagnose, measure and manage these conditions.”

Brian Buntz
is Editor at Large of EMDT sister publication MD+DI



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It is completely true that we

It is completely true that we do not have the statics of our health now-a-days as we are so much busy. It is really a shame. We are now taking more care of our technological products rather than our health. In medical science the use of sensing technology is really good. Now, the sensors are very much popular in the market and if we are going to search the use of sensors then we can find various things where sensors are used like in phones, in medical science, in automobile sector and in many more sectors we can find these sensors. So, what is the benefit we are getting after using these sensors. Lets take the example of sensors in cars. In cars sensors are used and are tracking the condition of our vehicle. When they track any error in our vehicle it will alert us in our dashboard of the vehicle. So, with the help of these sensors in automobile sector we can save our self from danger. As this industry is changing rapidly so, it is a bit tough for us to always keep track of the suitable technology available for our cars. We can go for repair and servicing center near to us and get our car updated.
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Reply

With the advancement in the technology, many changes have occurred in the medical field. Manual operations have been replaced with automatic and compute methods. This has widened the scope for the medical field. Thanks for sharing the piece of information with us!!!
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Internet is by far the

Internet is by far the largest scale applicability tool that we possess in order to considerably enhance the general quality of our lives in all the fields you can possibly think of. From Fiber Systems to ways of securing data transmission, from high tech devices to transfer medical knowledge into tools that can save thousands of live, internet is there to help us.

When I hear of medical

When I hear of medical breakthroughs, I cannot help myself of thinking about the Salem clinic, that basically saved my life. They were brave enough to go with a procedure that many doctors had doubts about before. But it was my only chance to recover my freedom. And I am so appreciative of what they have done.

Sensing technology must have to used in automotive sector.

Sensing technology is helping us in many ways and we are getting a lot of help because of this technology.I am completely agree with the things mentioned here is that now-a-days we people are very much busy in our work so that we are not doing proper check up of our health and it is because of we are not very much aware of the medical sensing technology. Sensors are now used in all areas and these things helps a lot in medical science. So, it is better to bring in to our normal live and sense things and alert us. If this sensing technology will implement on cars then just think how it come to be helpful. We can avoid car related problems as well as accidents. When some parts of our car not perform well then the sensing technology is going to be help us in different ways. I suggest to do a proper overall check for our car in proper time interval like I do for my Audi from a best Audi repair center in Portland to avoid car related problems. Car related problems mainly arise its parts not perform properly because of the wear and tear. So, It is preferable to do proper care of the vehicle and bring the sensing technology to the automotive sector.

This is another proof that

This is another proof that medical cautions and recommendations sell very well among customers that look up for every piece of advice to protect their health. I assume there is a liaison, a connection between the two health conditions, but I am not aware which is this in particular. I know that for a fact a lot of things we eat and a lot of treatments for that matter can help someone eliminate toxins, similarly to how detox shop products work. Truth is we need to rely on these small helps to start preventing serious conditions in the future.

As we all know Sensors are

As we all know Sensors are also known as Converters and are used to measure the physical quantity and then convert it to a signal that is recognizable by the user. It is a device used to produce output by taking some input. it is really a great idea to utilize such sensors not only in hospitals but, also in real lives.We can also use these sensors in our doors so that we can recognize if any thief or other person try to unlock our door force fully or by using any equipment. Also, we can use such products inside our car so that it will warn us in the same way like doors and also if our cars any part is not functioning properly it will message us, so that we can avoid car related problems. As I am writing here related to cars so,I think I will mention this part that when we know that any part of our car is not functioning well then it is our responsibility to get it repaired as soon as possible from a repair center that provides good service and asks for reasonable price. I am staying in Greensboro and have a BMW car so, I have found a BMW Repair center in Greensboro for my BMW and this service center provides better service with good price.

Now-a-days, sensors are used

Now-a-days, sensors are used rapidly for authentication purpose and also for detection purpose. In recent times a sensor was established in cars that will warn the car owner when an unknown person try to unlock the car and the good point is that it is providing a buzzer sound if any body even touch the car. So, it is preferable to develop some good sensors and install them in cars so that it will be helpful for the mankind. I am mentioning here a repair center that is Porsche Repair Chicago as it is a good one in providing service and charging reasonable price for the service of the car. We can go here to repair our car or for to install such good sensors.

We could use a more human

We could use a more human touch to today's technology that at some point feels overwhelming. I was checking out USACashServices.com and I was just amazed by how much easier computers and sensors make our lives today.

Even if we would be able to

Even if we would be able to use technology in order to find out what's wrong with us, we would still need a medical professional to perform some of the psychical procedures. You can't really replace the Rochester chiropractor with an internet application, it's physically impossible, so that's why the health system is going to say the same for now.

Censor out clinic is

Censor out clinic is advantageous for everybody as it divides time and effort. This is good and very cool to be implemented globally. - London Piano Institute