In 2014, I wrote the article “The Healthcare Revolution”, which outlined my vision for the future of healthcare.
In this article (four years later), I will review the key technologies, looking to understand if they have become a consumer reality.
Vision vs Reality
“The floor measures your weight, body composition, including the percentage of bone mass, fat mass, muscle mass, and water mass, in addition to heart rate and pulse wave velocity (arterial stiffness).”
Although not yet embedded into your bathroom floor, the Nokia Body Cardio, which can be purchased for £149.95, is a consumer product that measures Weight, Fat Mass, Muscle Mass, Water Mass, Bone Mass and Heart Rate. It can also automatically detect multiple users.
This data can be easily complemented by more traditional health tracking mechanisms, such as a Fitness Tracker (e.g. FitBit) and/or SmartWatch (e.g. Apple Watch).
“You then use the toilet, providing instant analysis of your urine, which is screened for disease and infection.”
Home urine tests do exist, however, I haven’t seen anyone attempt to make this process “appealing” to consumers.
However, Thriva, a UK startup, have launched a consumer blood analysis service (costing between £24.00 and £69.00), which can provide a comprehensive picture of your overview health, including Cholesterol, Liver Function, Vitamin D, Iron Profile, B12, Diabetes, and Folate.
I have not personally used the service, but early reviews highlight that the process is quick and simple, whilst leveraging pre-existing, heavily validated and CE accredited partners and equipment (helping to ensure safety, quality, and privacy).
“Next, you shower, where a full body analysis is completed. For example, mole mapping via digital photo-dermoscopy surveillance.”
Unfortunately, I am not aware of any consumer-grade digital photo-dermoscopy surveillance services, which still require specialist equipment and expertise. However, you can only assume that as consumer cameras become increasingly sophisticated and widely available, that this type of service will become a possibility.
“You then brush your teeth, where your saliva is analysed to identify markers of endocrine, immunologic, inflammatory and infectious conditions.”
In 2017, a number of companies released smart toothbrushes, including established dental hygiene companies such as Oral-B and Colgate, as well as startups such as Playbrush. However, the primary focus is improved dental hygiene through more effective cleaning, not health screening.
With that said, when reviewed alongside consumer genetic testing services (such as 23andMe), which can identify genetic markers related to specific health conditions, it is easy to see how these technologies could be combined to provide a more holistic and continuous health service.
Today, genetic testing services are a one-time process, focused on DNA, however, the end-to-end procedure of collecting saliva and screening the results is certainly transferable, which, if automated as part of a daily activity could enable the type of outcomes highlighted in the vision.
“While brushing your teeth, your eyes are checked by your mirror, via retinal-scan analysis.”
Verily, a Google subsidiary, recently announced the ability to analyse the fundus (rear interior wall of the eye), enabling them to deduce an individual’s age, blood pressure, and whether or not they smoke. This data can then be used to predict health issues, such as the risk of suffering a cardiac event.
Although likely many years away from a consumer service, the technology is clearly maturing and could feasibly be integrated into a smart mirror.
“All of this data is securely and privately stored in the cloud, where your virtual assistant can analyse the results and provide recommendations.”
At CES 2018, virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant hit the prime time, being integrated into many different products. Apple has also entered the market with the HomePod, however, it currently lacks the mature, open eco-system of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
I can easily see these virtual assistants becoming commonplace at home and work, acting as the central point for a wide range of services (including health). A key limitation will be security and privacy, which can hopefully be overcome through voice authentication and tight integration with other smart devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.)
“Automatically prescribe and order the required medication. If the condition is unknown or non-critical, but requires consultancy, your virtual assistant will schedule a telemedicine meeting with your defined health care professional.”
I recently experienced Babylon Health, a UK start-up focused on artificial intelligence, virtual consultations, and prescriptions. Their AI-powered chatbot already acts as an autonomous triage service and is being trialed by the NHS as an alternative to the “111” telephone helpline. However, their vision is to enable full diagnosis without any human intervention. As a result, Combining the AI-powered chatbot with a virtual assistant could be incredibly powerful.
Babylon Health can also already deliver prescriptions electronically, which, if integrated with Amazon Prime Now, could completely remove the need for the patient to leave their home, allowing them to focus on getting better.
“If the condition is known and requires immediate attention, an Uber will be requested with an “SOS” flag.”
Uber recently announced Uber Health, which will partner with healthcare organisations to provide reliable, comfortable transportation for patients.
This new service is almost exactly what I had predicted and is already available across 100+ healthcare organisations in the US.
Overall, many of the technologies I outlined in 2014 are now commonplace, some are delivered as consumer products (e.g. Nokia Body Cardio) and provide real-time output, while others are services (e.g. Thriva) that still require a level of human engagement, resulting in longer lead-times.
It is fair to say that none of the technologies have been tightly integrated into home life and very few successfully provide meaningful insights from the data they collect. However, I predict these areas will improve quickly as each technology becomes a commodity and new open ecosystems start to emerge.