There’s no doubt that technology is making our lives easier, but can it also make them healthier? A recent surge in healthcare innovation has all signs pointing to yes.
The FDA recently approved a smart pill, a tiny, ingestible silicon sensor that is activated by fluid in the stomach. A patch worn on the patient’s body receives the information from the sensor and is able to record the person’s heart rate, temperature, activity and sleep patterns. It also transmits valuable information about the time, identity and characteristics of what you swallow. The data is accessible from a secure app that the patient and their healthcare provider can access.
At the University of California, an electrical engineer created a mobile imaging device that is powered by cell phones. A microscope attachment works in conjunction with the phone’s camera and can identify living cells. In test environments, the detector was able to accurately identify E. coli, salmonella, tuberculosis and malaria. With a much faster response time than traditional testing methods, this technology could potentially be used by both healthcare professionals and food inspectors to diagnose illness and track how disease is spread.
But what if you could predict the onset of an illness before you even begin to show symptoms? A team of researchers from the University of Rochester in New York predicted – with 90 per cent accuracy – when people in New York would become sick using data from Twitter. They created an algorithm to analyze tweets from the New York City area and trained it to understand “sickness” in context. For example, it would be able to discern if a tweet was from someone who was physically ill versus someone who was sick of waiting in line. Most amazingly, the algorithm could be used to predict the onset of illness up to eight days before.
While they can’t replace healthcare professionals, these digital alternatives may alleviate some of the stresses placed on traditional healthcare systems. From predicting the onset of illness to speeding up diagnosis types and managing medication effectiveness, these initiatives are just the beginning of a range of digital options that will revolutionize the current medical industry.