Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Technology: Friend or Foe? Part 2
Let’s say you’re one of those seniors who has resisted the march of technology. Let’s say you eschew computers or fancy new phones and you can only minimally navigate the TV remote. Would you be inclined to try to learn more about modern electronics such as computers and Smartphones if, for instance, you could use them as an EKG or to test your blood sugar or urine right in your own home without going to the doctor’s office? Overcoming the fear of technology may prove to be the best thing you ever did in terms of enhancing your life medically.
I recently saw on “Rock Center” with Brian Williams a fascinating program about the advanced uses currently and soon to be available on a Smartphone or iPhone in the medical world. His report made me think there’s at least one more reason to embrace new technology. And I’m not talking about 10 years from now, I’m talking about now.
We’ve all heard of applications (apps) on newer phones that allow you to listen to music, forecast the weather, learn foreign languages, track weight loss and exercise and thousands of other things. New apps are being designed and tested to diagnose ailments, as well. There is a cell phone modification that sells for $199 to doctors that performs cardiograms. This can be done in the doctor’s office, thereby saving the patient the time and $800 lab cost of an EKG. Phone attachment sensors are allowing for all kinds of lab tests such as saliva, blood, urine and sweat to be performed by doctors and patients remotely through testing applications or apps.
At the forefront of this wireless medicine movement is Dr. Eric Topol, a prominent cardiologist from southern California. He says humorously but truly, “These days, I’m prescribing a lot more apps than I am medications.” Even ultrasounds can be conducted through cell phones with the use of the appropriate attachment. Also, an exterior sensor worn on the skin over the stomach signals to an app on your phone constant blood sugar information for diabetes testing.
A new project, sounding almost too futuristic to me, is the use of a nano-sensor which is the size of a grain of sand. It is injected into the blood stream and senses when cells are being shed from the artery lining, which is a precursor to a heart attack. If these sloughed cells are detected, you get a distinct signal/ringtone on your phone warning of a possible heart attack to come in the next week or two.
And think of the cost savings to you and the medical industry as a whole. Dr. Topol points out that $350 billion is spent annually on prescription drugs and a third of those drugs aren’t effective, which is a total waste. As we all know, doctors often make an educated guess at what medications might work for us based on mass screening information rather than patient-specific data. He sees this as a sort of dumbing down of the medical profession in treating everyone the same.
With the use of modern technology available through phones, you and your immediate data drive the medicines and treatments tailored just for you...and at a greatly reduced cost. Dr. Topol, who receives no financial gain by encouraging the use of these kinds of new phone and computer products, believes we should track our own conditions through our phones and use that data to see patterns and warning signs of illness.
I’d say this is some pretty exciting stuff available with new electronics. Would this make overcoming the fear of technology easier for you?
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