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Smart data and new technologies can ease the burden on health care. Here are six examples of how better data usage and smart devices are saving lives.
IBM’s Watson computer system has already beaten several of the greatest all-time champions of the American game show Jeopardy! The strength of the computer system is that it is able to scan enormous amounts of information and learn from it. When IBM bought Merge Healthcare earlier this year, they announced a plan: to let Watson scan billions of medical images and then help doctors make better diagnoses and provide them with information on treatment.
Google X-lab has developed a contact lens that measures the wearer’s glucose levels by analyzing their tears. In the past, diabetics have had to prick their fingers to measure their glucose levels; soon they will just need to wear a contact lens. If the insulin levels fall too low, the lens will trigger an alarm to a wireless transmitter. The smart lens will hit the market in a few years.
In a pilot project in Sjöbo, Sweden, a group of heart failure patients have been given Wi-Fi-enabled scales for home use. The patients weigh themselves every day and the data is sent to the patients’ doctors. Rapid weight gain is a common indicator of deterioration in heart failure patients. By keeping the scale at home, the patients don’t have to come in for checkups and the doctors can detect anomalies in time.
There are many types of assault alarms available today as apps. A common feature of these apps is to let the user’s friends or other users of the app follow the user in real time. If you set the alarm by tapping a button, a text message or a push notification with your location can be sent out to other users in the vicinity. A Swedish variant, Not Alone, triggers an alarm when the headphones are torn out of the mobile device.
There has been a lot of focus on wristbands recently: Google, Samsung, Microsoft — basically all of the major IT companies have come out with wristbands for health and fitness scanning. The Swedish initiative, MedTech West, is experimenting with similar technology implanted in regular clothing. How does your heart feel? Ask your shirt.
Many senior citizens frequently visit the hospital for checkups. Sometimes completely unnecessarily, sometimes traveling long distances. Yet it is still difficult to monitor elderly patients to make sure, for example, that they have not fallen down. Smart sensors in the home make it possible to check that older people have taken their medication, have a good heart rate, are sleeping well and haven’t fallen down. Senior citizens can live at home longer and health care resources can be used where they do the most good.