Health apps and virtual doctor visits are gaining popularity around the globe. Some say it is the future of medicine, but Dr. Eric Topol, author of “The Patient Will See You Now,” says this new era goes far beyond flashy phones and gadgets, and that the future of medicine is really in your hands.
“People want their own data, they become frustrated when it takes too long to get their own tests and lab results back— and now with these new types of devices, they can have it right on their phone,” Topol told FoxNews.com.
Topol, a cardiologist at Scripps Health in San Diego, Calif., believes new technology will ultimately democratize medicine and enable patients to take control of their own health care and medical data.
New medical gadgets and smartphone attachments can measure a variety of important vitals such as heart rhythms, blood pressure and respiratory rate.
“A lot of the diagnosis and monitoring functions will be done through little devices— smartphones— by the patient with computer assistance. So it’s a real big change in the model of how we render healthcare,” Topol said.
Even though digitized medicine sounds exciting, one of the major fears that affect all forms of digital advancements is privacy. With so much personal medical information living on the Internet, many Americans may not feel protected. Topol doesn’t think privacy and security issues have been tackled properly yet, but he is hopeful that a resolution will be made.
“[We have] all of these medical metrics and labs and we have no place for them,” Topol said. “So each individual, eventually, is going to have their own personal cloud with all of this data stored. By having it at an individual basis, that will reduce the risk of hacking. When it’s in mountains of data, of millions of people, that's the most attractive target for hacking.”
Keeping an optimistic look into how medicine will continue to become digitized, Topol shares a few technologies he thinks will have a big impact in 2015.
Blood pressure trackers
“We have 70 million people with high blood pressure, and we have never had a way to get blood pressure without a cuff; we have that coming now. Two companies like Quanttus with a watch and Scanadu with a scout [monitor] that you can put to your forehead. You can get blood pressure easily, passively and that’s going to be a real step forward,” Toppol, who consults for Quanntus, said.
Continuous glucose monitoring devices
“For all these children that have type 1 diabetes and their parents want to know what's going on with their glucose— which is being monitored every five minutes. So we’ve got the big glucose center companies, not only Dexcom, Medtronic and Abbott, each of them are working on direct-to-phone display of data,” Toppol, who serves on the board of directors for Dexcom, said.
Mental health monitoring apps
“Depression is the number one cause of disability in this country, and now we finally have a way to quantify it— and multiple ways. One of them is through this Ginger.io, which monitors all your communication, texts and voice through the smart phone. There's this Israeli company, Beyond Verbal, that’s analyzing the tone and reflection of your voice. There's Project Florida that has a wristband that's monitoring galvanic skin response and heart rate variability.”
“So there's all these objective ways, particularly taken together, to have this exquisite quantification of mood and stress and that will help people with depression to know whether their treatment is working, it will help to understand what are the interactions depression likes. All of these different factors that they never had a way to objectively assess.”
For more information on Topol’s book, “The Patient Will See You Now,” visit basicbooks.com.