Tuesday, January 8, 2013
John Pavley/My Phone Is Keeping an Eye on My Health
Does John's story sound like anybody you know?
Posted: 01/07/2013 8:46 am
Now that I'm over 50, watching TV is a scary experience for me. It's not the shows as much as it is the ads: Lipitor, Cialis, Abilify, Cymbalta, Plavix, Symbicort, Lyrica, Advair, Crestor, Adrogel, and all the rest. I am lucky enough to live in a part of the world where aging and stress are much more likely to kill me than hunger, disease, or bullets. A first world problem by definition, but a still a problem. I'm not even sure what all those drugs do but as bits and pieces of me age many of them will be prescribed to shore up my unraveling biological infrastructure.
While it's great that we have modern medicine and pharmacology to alleviate the embarrassing problems of the natural aging process, I'm really much too busy to "grow old gracefully." I can't imagine retiring. I am not interested in slowing down or enjoying my golden years. I still have major accomplishments to accomplish!
While I was under 50 I cared little for my health: I drank more cups of coffee a day than I can count, I ate as much as of whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it, and I exercised randomly -- if at all. I was a big man but I was as healthy as an ox (or as genetically lucky as a healthy ox).
These days my lucky genetic material is starting to wind down. For almost every aging related "disease" I'll eventually get there is a drug, a side effect, and a balance to be discovered and tuned.
I went to my doctor for a checkup and a review of my most recent blood work. I'm already on a couple of maintenance drugs and fine-tuning them is a pain. I have to get blood tests done every 30 days and meet with my doctor every 90 days. I really don't have time for all this!
During my last checkup I demoed HuffPost's newest iPhone app, that we just launched this week at CES, GPS for the Soul, to my doctor. I showed him how our app uses the built-in iPhone camera and flash as a sensor to gauge emotional state. We went through a couple of the guides and visualizations with a breathing pacer as well as videos on meditation and yoga. GPS for the Soul is not a diagnostic tool, it's an app that helps you manage stress.
Even so, my doctor was excited by how GPS for the Soul worked and kept talking about the fact that stress has a big effect on health.
Then he told me about the "smart loo." An awesome toilet made in Japan that can test your blood pressure, body temperature, weight, and urine sugar levels. This toilet will automatically share data with your personal computer so you can email your vital signs to your doctor. While it doesn't replace a blood test, it can give immediate results that can be used to fine-tune prescriptions and therapies.
We also talked about the Basis, a wristwatch-like device that can continuously measure heart rate, sleep quality, and activity levels. Basis uses USB and Bluetooth to send its measurement data to your computer or mobile phone. Basis is just the start of a new wave of "smart wearables." These devices aren't just for the sick or for professional athletes. They are for anyone who wants to pay more attention to their health and well-being.
If we put the three of these things together -- apps like GPS for the Soul that use the features of your mobile phone to check your stress level; smart household appliances, like the smart loo, that can do passive testing of your biologics; and smart wearables like the Basis that can continuously track your activity levels -- a new system emerges: A "connected healthcare management system" that could save millions of lives and millions of dollars in medical costs.
Imagine that your refrigerator, microwave oven, coffee machine, scale, toilet, office chair, wrist watch, and even jewelry were all "smart." That they could all collect data and share it over Bluetooth or Wifi with your mobile phone. Then apps like GPS for the Soul could send you notifications like: "Hey, ease up on the pizza!" or "Try to get to bed before midnight tonight!" or "Stop and take a deep breath!"
These apps could also share this data with your primary physician and alert him or her if your vital signs become really erratic. Instead of you calling the doctor, the doctor will call you!
We're not there yet. But we will be. Our aging baby boomer population and the skyrocketing cost of healthcare will demand automation and computer technology to step in and help. However, the most important time to use a connected healthcare management system isn't when you are old or sick but when you are young and healthy. Many aging related "diseases" can be delayed by proper maintenance of physical and emotional states before we get old. This is especially true with stress: The better we manage stress, the better we live.
Follow John Pavley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jpavley