Recent headlines offer a glimpse into the future of personal health management. In 2013, scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) developed an implant that allows blood to be analyzed from within the body, with results transmitted wirelessly to a computer. The following year, Philips showcased a medical wearable for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The patch continuously gathers diagnostic stats like heart rate, respiratory function and physical activity, transfers data to the patient’s mobile device and uploads it to a cloud-based healthcare repository. The low-cost sensors monitor chronic medical conditions in real time and are a part of the company’s growing wearables line for medical and fitness use. The patch is similar to another advancement in wearable electronics: an ultrathin wearable tattoo capable of measuring brain, heart and muscle activity. A similar “e-skin” product, developed by engineers from the University of Tokyo, measures heart rate and blood-oxygen levels. Researchers say the ultimate goal for smart skins is to create a display screen directly on the person’s body, forgoing the need for painful pricks and pricey equipment.
“It’s an exciting time for those in biomed to explore new capabilities with smart connected objects in, on, or around our bodies,” Maguire said. “This is the decade where we start figuring out how to apply technology into our health and in meaningful ways. We’ll spend the next decade trying to figure out how to integrate that information with clinical care.”
As human-centered diagnostics makes healthcare less reliant on invasive medical procedures and hospital stays, tomorrow’s doctor-patient relationship will become a true partnership that puts the patient in the epicenter of “patient centered care,” and forces providers to share diagnostic capabilities that were once highly regulated.
Ultimately, the move toward patient-centered care means a healthcare environment where the patient is in the driver’s seat, with providers and researchers keeping a cautiously optimistic eye on the road.