Pocket doctors

Anthony McGarry keeps watch to improve our health

13th March 2017

Noticing physical indicators of health have generally helped us get by in life as a species over the last two hundred thousand years or so. Before any kind of lab test or MRI-scan was available, your physician could do an adequate job of working out your basic health based on a few obvious physiological parameters, such as heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Over time, technology has advanced to the point where we can use instruments beyond human function to give an even more in depth analysis of a person’s well being.

Wearable technology has had an exponential rise in its manufacture in recent years, correlating with an increase in the use of home health technologies (such as sleeptracker apps). The next obvious step to take is to combine the two. And that’s just what researchers at Stanford University have done.

A paper published in January for PLOS Biology gave volunteers wearable devices which were able to pick up abnormal physiological responses in each of the test subjects. The data gathered from this was also used to work out differences between the feedback given by insulin sensitive and insulin-resistant individuals. This raised the prospect that the devices could potentially be used to detect type-2 diabetes, a huge issue in not only the UK but globally.

A secondary benefit from a wearable health device is the reduction of appointments it could provide on the  currently strained GP practices and walk-in centres. As the device is able to detect small changes in the normal physiology of a person, it could be used as a precursor step to check heart rate and temperature prior to deciding on a GP visit.

Further research is needed in order to confirm the effectiveness and potential of a device like this, however, if technologies keep advancing at the rate they are now, a medic on your wrist may come sooner than you think.

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