You just went to the toilet and that triggered an automatic email informing you that your health insurance went up. Next you ask and receive a personalized doctor’s prescription, on your iPhone, to remedy whatever ailment is bothering you. Then you plug an appropriate device in your iPhone and monitor or evaluate your recovery. All historic data on your health is accessible by your doctor, your health insurer and most relevant, to you.
So just how far off is this future vision? Toto, short for Tōyō Tōki (Oriental Ceramics), is a Japanese toilet manufacturer that designed the Intelligence Toilet II. This toilet analyzes our excreta and records data like weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. It even has a sample catcher in the bowl to obtain urine samples, which for instance can used to predict pregnancies. This information is then sent to your PC, showing your vital health stats.
It would be a simple effort to share this information with your doctor and even with your health insurer. Doctor’s could then evaluate online how you are doing, and track if you follow their advice or prescriptions. The diagnosis and subsequent recovery data is valuable for responsible patients, but the essence lies in health insurers capturing and tracking this data, as they do with car drivers. And just as prudent drivers are rewarded with lower car insurance, healthy people could pay less health coverage. And when you wish to avoid paying a higher premium, you could ask ‘Dr. App’ on our iPad to help out.
MedAfrica, available for smart phones is the product of Shimba Technologies, based in Kenya. The platform aggregates information from many sources. It supplies first-aid recommendations from local hospitals, lists of doctors and dentists and data feeds from the national Ministry of Health for information on things like disease outbreaks or counterfeit drugs. At the same time Safaricom launched Call-a-Doc, to allow Safaricom's 18 million subscribers to call doctors for expert advice for two cents a minute. These are two innovative examples of Africa leap frogging the developed world. In a future world where an expanding senior generation has growing medical needs, there might not be enough doctors, so the African ‘online doctors’ idea could be refined to use in the developed world.
And what about the medical equipment to measure, diagnose and keep tabs on your health? Withings’ blood pressure cuff just received FDA clearance. Plug it into your iPhone and it measures your blood pressure. The blood pressure data can then be shared online with your doctor. FotoFinder Systems GmbH, a maker of digital imaging products, recently released a device that docks with an iPhone to turn it into a handheld dermatoscope for performing skin examinations. There are many more examples of these new medical devices which stand to democratize the health care industry.
Now let’s put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The vision that arises is one where health care will be connected and democratic. Data and information on individuals’ health will be more easily captured, analyzed and shared by all parties. This big data sharing could revolutionize health care. Expensive health insurance ecosystems can function leaner, people who take care of their health will be rewarded, and have at their disposal tools to do so more easily. And last but not least developing countries will leap frog expensive health care set ups, by integrated and innovative information technology.
Taking care of your health will never have been easier, with an iPad Doc App and a small suitcase with medical instruments to connect to your tablet or smart phone. Information on your condition is shared, remedies dispensed online (pills advertised) and improvements tracked remotely. Your health improves and you pay less insurance premiums. A truly smarter and healthier world is born.
By Roel Castelein, GTM Strategy for EMEA at EMC
Jon Collins’ in-depth look at tech and society
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond