With an aging population in our near future and big pressure on health care budgets, there is a great need for clever ways to diagnose and monitor our medical health. Luckily, all sorts of new technology helps use out better and better. And because we are already used to do-it-yourself tests and searching the internet for answers about our health, we will certainly be relying more of these products in the future. One of -just many- questions is, where and when does a real life medical doctor step in?
New diagnostic tools, triggered by developments in nanomaterials, lab-on-a-chip and sensor technology, will find their entrance on the consumer market as prices go down. There will be many eager consumers ready to learn more about their health status. Connecting the testing device to a smart phone will open a whole new world of medical information that people can obtain without intervention of a real life doctor as such. One example of these kinds of healths is Scanadu. It can monitor many of the basic vital signs such as heart rate, temperature and blood oxygenation. Korean scientists are also working on a smart phone with a touch screen that can detect various biomolecules which provide indications of disease. Many more tests that do the job without interference of a doctor will follow.
There are also do-it yourself tests that make it possible for medical staff to monitor a patient’s health at a distance. A great example is the sensors that look like ‘happy face’ tattoos are actually quite similar to so called children’s tattoos. These sensors allow for continuous monitoring and testing, even while the person is sweating and physically active. Again these sensors make use of nanomaterials, composed in a clever way to have a user friendly device.
These products could encourage people to monitor and adjust their health in a positive way. It will be very easy to be on the look out of signs of disease and symptoms of un-healthiness. And then people can act by changing lifestyle, having medical treatment or other interventions. All these health management tools may give rise to super healthy people with an extreme long life expectancy.
Indeed, many doctors will shake their heads when people go with all these tests without medical supervision. That would be a pity, because there are many ways in which home diagnostics could make the lives of patients more convenient. With remote medical supervision, patients with chronicle diseases could monitor their health more frequently and stay in touch about their data with their doctors. They could continue their lives, travel and not be held back from physical activities. This in itself could give so much more joy than being labelled as a patient and to be stuck at home or in bed.
These few examples already show that there are many ways in which do-it-yourself diagnostics and remote medicine can add a whole new dimension to health care. People have new opportunities to take their health in their own hands, be more independent of hospital visits and have their health being monitored more precisely. When applied cleverly, these new technologies can take work out of hands of the medical staff, and thus bring down health care costs. Also, relying on smart phone apps has already so much become our second nature, that it won’t be any problem for most people to embrace these new opportunities.