Technological progress in the field of devices

Technological progress in the field of devices

Technological progress in monitoring the activity of one’s own body promises to revolutionize the medical field. A new era begins – of self-knowledge through measurement.

He’s a dumb killer. Atrial fibrillation causes a quarter of heart attacks that kill about 100,000 Britons each year. Most would not be treated if the heart arrhythmia was treated, provided it was discovered in time. Analyzes are expensive and not always accurate. Well, smart watches from Apple or soon Fitbit can detect these arrhythmias and are much cheaper, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

It’s just an example of a technological revolution that can be said to transform medicine. Smart watches and already various other fitness devices to monitor body activity can store over 7,500 behavioral and psychological variables. Obviously, some are more accurate (more useful) than others, but with the help of the machine learning process that can be perfected, the data can be filtered to deliver a non-stop real-time and quantifiable picture of the state of health of the wearer.

Digital self-knowledge

It’s just the beginning of the so-called “quantified self”, and for digital health investors – a vast free zone in which to put (and then withdraw) money. For patients, the innovations in monitoring devices to wear are just beginning. Companies appear and disappear, but mobile and artificial intelligence devices will shape healthcare in three directions – preventive diagnosis, personalized treatment, and chronic disease management. In every direction, the promised impact is huge – lowering health care and saving lives.

Let’s take them one at a time. Preventive diagnosis. The wearer can detect subtle changes that otherwise go unnoticed and the patient reaches a more severe form of the disease, implicitly to a more expensive treatment. Sensors indicate that the balance of an older person is beginning to deteriorate (for example, in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, the balance of the hands and gait change). A smart ring can help a woman get pregnant by following her menstrual cycle. She can also detect a pregnancy less than a week after conception (and many women continue to drink and / or smoke for weeks until they find out they are pregnant).

Then there is the promise of ultra-personalization. Most medications work for only 30-50% of patients because they are not personalized. In one person, for example, regular banana consumption regulates blood sugar levels, but in another it raises it to a level that can harm them.

Algorithms can turn the huge amount of data collected from devices into personalized recipes and diets that are much more efficient, less restrictive, and therefore easier to follow than those created for many human types.

When doctors will be able to see a patient’s body in real time 24 hours a day, they will be able to provide a more accurate diagnosis and better treatments. One example – in a German pilot program, this kind of cardiac monitoring of patients reduced mortality and hospitalization days by a third.

Chronic diseases

Carriers can also transform the area of ​​chronic diseases, such as diabetes. At 80%, the disease can only be prevented by identifying certain changes in the lifestyle of those who are predisposed. Software applications use smart tactics such as those used by personal trainers or life partners, if careful, to get someone to exercise more, eat healthier, sleep better.

Even the slightest change in this regard – 1,000 extra steps a day – reduces mortality by between 6 and 36%, depending on how sedentary the person is. At the same time, permanent monitoring shifts the balance of the care process from what doctors can do in the short and occasional consultation offered in the office to what patients can do for themselves, nonstop.

Every year, the United States spends $ 10,000 to $ 20,000 per patient on people with diabetes, bringing the total financial effort to nearly $ 280 billion a year (about half of the total budget allocated to the public education system). . An application that monitors and controls a diabetes patient reduces costs per patient by between $ 1,400 and $ 5,000.

the impact

The scale of all these benefits will be much wider. How vast, we can only realize as wearable devices generate enough data to lead to new and new innovations. Technology is ripe, and that is the main reason for optimism. About 200 million devices have been sold in 2020, and that number will double by 2026.

One in four Americans wears such a device – smart watches serve as a platform for innovators. In a year or two, this type of watch will be able to measure non-invasive blood sugar, blood alcohol levels or the body’s degree of hydration. They will also look for markers that indicate kidney or liver function. All of this now requires blood tests. As these devices come equipped with more and more features, users will be more and more interested in wearing them.


As with any technology, there are fears. A person’s medical information is valuable – it can be exploited by companies, insurers, governments interested in social control. Moreover, they may not reach the poor or those who lead chaotic lives — that is, those who need them most.

But the biggest fear is bureaucratic. The responsibility for continuing this progress lies primarily with the market. And developers have begun to pay for rigorous studies that demonstrate the safety, effectiveness, and value of their technologies. The industry needs to classify these devices and applications based on their efficiency and privacy, and this will help doctors, insurers and authorities to separate good companies from imposters.

Doctors also play a vital role. Healthcare is a conservative industry and it’s not bad, given that life is at stake. However, this conservatism risks hampering the adoption of digital medicine not for safety reasons, but through the inertia of regulators, standardization bodies, insurers and medical schools.

“An app a day”

Rules are needed to make data ownership more transparent so that people understand and have control over the information in and about their own bodies. Patient data needs to be synchronized with medical systems, and practitioners need protocols for using new technologies. Doctors need to be trained and paid to be able to browse the data collected by mobile devices and offer digital treatments. And governments and insurers need to find mechanisms to integrate this technology into public health care systems.

It is a long list of necessary steps, but the financial and public health benefits are huge. Therefore, it is good to be prepared, because medical care will soon enter the era of the so-called “connected self-measurement” or “quantified self”.

Medical identity

The constant flow of medical information accelerates the expansion of a unique form of reporting to one’s own body.

WHAT THE. Quantified personal analysis (self-knowledge through digital measurement of one’s body) is an international movement that brings together devices, principles and methods to measure each person’s data, analyze it and share it with the community. WHO. The move was launched in 2007 in California by two Wired journalists, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, through meetings between users and device manufacturers dedicated to tracking their personal data. In 2010, Gary Wolf introduced the phrase “quantified self” to a TED discussion.

This article appeared in issue 140 of . magazine.

PHOTO: Getty