• 06.29.11

Health Care Of The Future: Non-Invasive Blood Tests, Brain-Connected Avatars, Digital Pill Boxes

You may not use a health device connected to your doctor yet, but you probably will soon. What will these devices look like and how will you use them?


Blood Monitoring–Without Drawing Blood


For the chronically ill, constant blood tests are a way of life. But few people enjoy getting blood drawn every day, let alone making frequent trips to the local lab. Enter the non-invasive blood test, which analyzes blood via a wrist band and automatically sends the information to your doctor. If anything abnormal shows up–say, a drop in iron levels or a higher white blood cell count–users will instantly know to get help.

Brain-Connected Avatars

It’s every video game junkie’s dream: an avatar that you can control with your mind. But IBM isn’t interested in video games; the company thinks that brain wave-tapping devices will allow the medically impaired (and even the non-verbal) to communicate their thoughts. Patients could, for example, indicate unpleasant sensations in their body, request more oxygen, or simply ask for medical attention.

Digital Pill Boxes

Instead of relying on hawk-eyed nurses to monitor whether elderly patients are taking their medications, caregivers could instead enlist the help of digital pill boxes that monitor whether medication has been taken and home in on the exact location of the patient.

These devices aren’t available quite yet, but they’re not as far off as you might think. Intel has already developed the personal telehealth Health Guide system, and GE is
working on QuietCare, a remote monitoring system for the elderly. Whether these gadgets thrive will depend on ease of use, pricing (three quarters of users surveyed by IBM consider a price at or below $100 a critical decision factor), and perhaps most importantly, whether doctors will be willing to monitor individual patients so closely. Because without health care professionals on the receiving end of all this telehealth data, it’s just useless technology.


About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.