At a health innovation and investment conference in California earlier this month, there was a lot of energy and excitement about the emerging health and wellness industry…New technology — low-cost computing, sensors, the Web and genetics — will play a crucial role in the transition.
This week another good piece in NYT talks about some of the health and well-being phone apps now appearing on the market:
Dr Eric Topol’s new book, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine,” lays out his vision for how people will start running common medical tests, skipping office visits and sharing their data with people other than their physicians. Dr. Topol, a cardiologist and director of Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is already seeing signs of this as companies find ways to hook medical devices to the computing power of smartphones. Devices to measure blood pressure, monitor blood sugar, hear heartbeats and chart heart activity are already in the hands of patients. More are coming.
An entire marketplace is evolving that marries the can-do attitude of hacking devices with the fervor of the wellness movement.
The most prevalent diseases and the biggest markets are getting the tools first. Devices to monitor heart disease are already available.
A French start-up, Withings, has created a blood pressure cuff for $129 that connects to an iPad or an iPhone. The cuff will automatically inflate, deflate and then record the pulse rate and the blood pressure. The app will graph the pressure over time, making trends easier to see.
Withings also includes a connection to its Web site so users can share their data with their doctors either directly through their password-protected pages or through third-party sites like digifit.com.
The growing incidence of diabetes is by many estimates the biggest public health challenge today, so companies are developing tools to help people with the disease manage their blood sugar.
Tom Xu, the founder of SkyHealth in El Cerrito, Calif., created the Web site glucosebuddy.com to help people keep track of the sugar in their blood. The numbers must be entered manually. The site works with an app for the iPhone to gather the blood glucose level and some information about when it was taken. “Our main goal of glucosebuddy is not to just record numbers. That’s the boring part,” he said. “Once you know how your diet affects your blood sugar, you take your health more seriously.”
Other companies are beginning to integrate the hardware and software. AgaMatrix, a company that makes a blood glucose monitor, iBGStar, that attaches to the iPhone, worked with Sanofi, the pharmaceutical giant, to develop the tool. In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the device for sale in the United States.
Its tool, like many other pocket meters, measures the amount of glucose in the blood, but it also transfers the data to the smartphone, which helps patients to track their glucose levels over time. It is not much different from a piece of paper and a pen, but it is faster and cleaner, and it is easy to share these values with doctors and friends.
Johnson & Johnson has also spoken publicly about developing a similar device. The ultimate goal is replicating the full-body diagnostic “tricorder” from the “Star Trek” TV show, a goal that is being encouraged by a $10 million prize put up by Qualcomm, the smartphone chip maker, through the X-Prize Foundation.