Medical Technology Goes Personal

We have become so used to staring at our little black screens; we believe this represents the ultimate form of a personal device. However, there is new technology on the horizon that will integrate into our daily lives in ways we can only begin to imagine.

These innovations will span many markets and fulfil as yet unmet needs in personal wellbeing, remote disease management and drug interaction monitoring to name but a few. If the past is anything to go by, it will be Apple, spurred on by the buzz surrounding the launch of Pebble who could awaken our senses to what is possible. Their aim, to create the emotional desire for products that will compete for the real estate on our wrist including the right to monitor and transmit our vital signs. This, however, is only the start of the innovation journey. Professional medicine diagnosis is itself about to be turned on its head with the development of multi-functional ‘tricorder’ devices last seen decades ago in Star Trek and remained part of science fiction folklore until now.

Behind the scenes, within technology industry clusters there are fruitful collaborations between healthcare, mobile technology and software companies. These partnerships are driving breakthroughs in screening, disease management and drug therapy management. Apps that turn handheld devices into eye scanners can monitor your retina for signs of heart disease. Plug-ins to your mobile phone can monitor vital chemical imbalances highlighting disease progression rates. Diagnostic apps for remote alerts of untoward drug effects are already in development. Such is the potential, several companies including The X Prize Foundation and Qualcomm are offering substantial prizes for a working medical ‘tricorder’ device.

Just when mobile phone technology appears to be slowing, a new phase of innovation is about to be unleashed. Wrist based personal devices and personal medical assistants are coming on stream driven by improved collaboration and ever more powerful technologies. Within five years remote monitoring is likely to transform outcomes in many difficult to treat disease areas. It appears the technology revolution is about to give medicine a serious helping hand.