Smart devices: The future of healthcare

The lifestyle of an Indian has gone through gigantic changes in the past two decades. With most of us adopting a fast-paced sedentry routine where there is no time to relax and destress, we are inadvertently giving rise to an alarming number of complex health problems. Increasing urbanisation, sedentary lifestyle and bad food habits ares leading to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, infertility, thyroid disorders, etc. A report by World Health Organisation says the predominance of chronic diseases is expected to rise by 57% by 2020. And, emerging markets will be hardest hit, as population growth is anticipated be most significant in developing nations. Unfortunately this is just one side of the coin; we also carry with us the burden of non-communicable diseases such as malnutrition, anaemia, tuberculosis, and diarrhoea, to name a few. The problem here is that the cost of treating communicable diseases such as dengue in a majority of cases is not very high and results in one-time expenditure that is centered around specific incidents but the cost and complexity of managing chronic or non-communicable diseases are extremely high. This is because non communicable diseases are usually lifelong and need regular monitoring, treatment and lifestyle changes. If not brought under control, it will only make things worse by putting an enormous burden on an already stretched system. However, there A large percentage of these conditions can be prevented or managed by simple lifestyle changes. Here comes the cross section of smartphones, medical devices and intelligent software. Combining three important technology streams offers a solution that can contain if not eradicate the challenges of chronic conditions. An integration of at-home diagnostic devices, regular monitoring of chronic conditions and intelligent software allows one to take corrective actions specific to the individual Therefore, the future of healthcare can be seen through the integration of smart devices using your phones, where one can monitor health issues no matter where they are. Smartphones collect piles of data about our lifestyle. Right from how much we exercise, to what we eat, to what time we sleep; combine this diagnostic test information with our lifestyle and voila! we get personalised recommendations on how to cope with insomnia, sugar levels, low Vitamin D and so on. This innovative approach further helps in reducing the heavy burden that doctors undergo to maintain prescriptions, bundles of reports, patient history and so on. Reports have revealed that chronic conditions account for 91% of all prescriptions filled and 76% of all physician visits. With everything on your phone, doctors have access to every information needed and can make a diagnosis from anywhere in the world. Smartphone-based diagnostic devices are significantly more flexible as well. One device can add a number of vital tests such as heart disease, fertility, kidney function, etc. and therefore monitor your body wholistically. And apps can constantly be improvised upon, whereas traditional medical devices once shipped cannot improve themselves for a couple of years; making the latter even more redundant. Such smart devices are an interesting way to help with healthcare access, affordability and service delivery. They are a fascinating combination of innovative, efficient, technology-supported applications based on the principles of medicine, software, design and philosophy. They impart education, enable timely health monitoring, motivate to improve lifestyle and thus ensure better health outcomes. By Varun AV, the writer is co-founder, Inito, a Bengaluru-based medical technology firm