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"Check Engine Light" for Health Surveillance on Our Smart Phones

Posted Dec 03 2012 12:00am

Smart phones are beginning to supplant PCs as our most important and versatile digital devices (see: Differences Increasingly Blurred Between PCs and Smartphones ). One piece of evidence for this change is the use of smart phones as health monitoring devices including the presence of personal "check engine" light. In this latter case, smart phones are being used to continuously collect real time passive (mobile sensor) and active (patient-reported outcomes) data. Here's an excerpt from an article about this topic (see: MIT Media Lab Spin-Out Raises $6.5 Million Series A Round ):

MIT Media Lab spin-out and TechStars alum has announced it has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding, bringing their total financing to $8.2 million.The round was led by Khosla Ventures and will help the behavioral health analytics startup continue to grow....“We are at a time of great disruption in healthcare,” said Vinod Khosla, founding partner of Khosla Ventures, in a release. “ is at the forefront of data-driven technology and healthcare, with the potential to transform the way we manage chronic disease populations, and we’re excited to help the team drive this transition.”

Mr. HIStalk has also informed us about a similar approach by Scanadu (see: Monday Morning Update 12/3/12 ). Another player in this same market is  Healthrageous . Here is an excerpt from the HIStalk recent note:

Scanadu, the 20-employee company whose tagline is “Sending your Smartphone to Med School,” announces that it will release three consumer tools by the end of 2013. The $150 Scanadu Scout is held to the temple and in less than 10 seconds, checks pulse, heart activity, temperature, and pulse oximetry and sends the results via Bluetooth to its smartphone app. Project ScanaFlo is a disposable cartridge that turns a smartphone into a urine analysis reader (pregnancy complications, gestational diabetes, kidney failure, or UTI). Project ScanaFlu is a saliva tester that detects cold symptoms by checking for strep, influenza, adenovirus,and RSV. Scanadu is best known for working on a tricorder-like health assessment device and these modules are the first components of it.

So what do we make of all of this? I have suggested in a previous note that nurse practitioners (NPs) may replace many primary care physicians (PCPs) as the first health care professional we will visit with a complaint. Such individuals may then provide treatment or refer us to another health professional (see: A Solution to the PCP Shortage: Nurse Practitioners ). It is also in the realm of possible that some of these same initial diagnostic and triaging function may be taken over by our smart phones that will provide both active and passive surveillance of our health status.

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