Not long ago, I read an article about a 13-year-old student who was “saved” thanks to a warning from his smartwatch, made from the tracking of his heart rate. The device analyzed the beats of the young man and found a non-standard measurement and warned the user to seek a doctor in order to evaluate this finding more accurately. From the evaluation of the doctor and new tests, it was found that the young man had heart disease.
After reading this report, I decided to investigate further and find out what would be the uses of gadgets in the health area and how they can be useful these days. A gadget is nothing more than a portable device.
Most gadgets in the health field are focused on monitoring. That is, they are gadgets for the purpose of making measurements, of Heartbeat, for example, and the monitoring of some information.
There are also gadgets of the actuator type, the purpose of which is the execution of tasks, such as applying an insulin dosage, for example. In addition, it is common for health gadgets to be of the wearable type, which is used next to the body.
It is worth noting here that the gadgets were created with the aim of assisting the lives of people and health professionals, never replacing a medical analysis of the patient.
First, I will separate the types of health gadgets according to their purpose: prevention, diagnosis / follow – up and treatment.
Prevention gadgets are, in general, those that we use to monitor our routine, validating our behaviors in order to ensure our well-being, and prevent future illnesses. I will start by giving an example of personal experience with this type of gadget.
I have a gadget that always accompanies me during physical exercises, measuring my heartbeat. I have been using this gadget since 2007 when I entered the world of racing. At that time, I used a watch that communicated with a strap that measured the heartbeats. With this information, I was always able to keep track of how my training was going, whether I’m forcing too much or too little during the activity. The most interesting thing is that the professional who accompanies me can always plan my workouts with better accuracy, making use of this information.
This technology of Heartbeat meters has already evolved quite a lot over the years, so much so that today we do not measure heartbeat only, but the number of calories spent on the activity. In addition, it is possible to estimate measures of the maximum VO2 (maximum oxygen volume) and other variables and, from them, to assist the physical trainers of amateurs or even sports professionals.
Apart from the heartbeat meters, in the group of prevention gadgets, it would also include the step counters, the water intake controllers, and the brain wavemeters. With them, the user can keep track of his rhythm of life and training. Brain wave meters can assist, for example, in the process of meditation.
Other examples of prevention gadgets are devices for detecting pollution in the environment and removing germs, bacteria, and viruses from surfaces. They use UV-ray technology for this purpose. With them, one can ensure better sterility of the environment and thereby prevent the spread of diseases.
Diagnostic and tracking Gadgets
Diagnostic or follow-up gadgets are very useful for diseases that can be diagnosed, as well as for the follow-up of patients who have some kind of illness that needs to be controlled.
A classic example is the blood glucose meter, through which people with diabetes can track the level of glucose in the blood and apply the correct dosage of insulin. This type of meter makes use of needles to collect part of the person’s blood for analysis, however, there are already companies investing in new ways to make these measurements, such as the evaluation of blood through radio waves or, then, samples of tears.
Another type of existing gadget is that of a gluten presence detector in food. This gadget analyzes a sample of the food before it is ingested and informs whether or not gluten is present. Although nowadays it is mandatory for the packaging of the food to inform whether it contains gluten or not, often the person who is going to ingest something did not have access to the ingredients with which the food was made — in such cases, the gadget can be very useful.
There is also a fall detection gadget. This kind of gadget is very useful for the elderly. Often they live alone and, during a fall, they can end up hurting themselves so that they cannot ask for help. With the use of this device, which would be connected to some monitoring center, the elderly could receive assistance quickly.
One very interesting gadget I saw at an innovation event at the Albert Einstein hospital was the noninvasive intracranial pressure gauge. Typically, measurement of intracranial pressure is done through sensors inserted inside the patient’s head. The presented gadget, developed by a Brazilian company, makes this measurement of pressure through the variation in the deformity of the cranial box.
This type of sensor is very useful for patients with a problem of poor fluid circulation in the brain, as it does not require invasive procedures-which have higher risks of complications-for monitoring intracranial pressure.
For women who are looking to get pregnant, or also avoiding, there are already some gadgets that help them identify their moment of fertility. For the most part, these gadgets measure various physiological factors, such as heart rate and body temperature, and, based on this information, predict whether the woman is in her fertile period or not.
A very interesting gadget is a T-shirt that makes the measurement of the patient’s heart rhythms, with the use of sensors attached to it. With this gadget, it is possible to monitor, for 24 hours, the rhythms of the heart and, in case something out of the standard occurs, the device alerts the patient.
This gadget could facilitate a very common and very troublesome examination, the Holter, which many heart patients need to do for the follow-up of their disease. Holter examination is performed by a portable monitor coupled to the patient’s waist and connected to electrodes through wires.
All this equipment can be quite troublesome and requires care of the patient so that it continues to function properly. This would not be necessary in a simpler gadget, in T-shirt format, for example.
Finally, the last example is that of a portable retinograph, which coupled to a smartphone, makes the collection and analysis of images of the eye for the purpose of preventing retinal diseases.
Treatment Gadgets are those used for the purpose of treating diseases temporarily or permanently. In general, these gadgets are prescribed by a specialized professional. Classic examples of this type of gadget would be the hearing aid, the pacemaker, and the insulin meter.
These are three examples of continuous treatment gadgets, the first being to improve the hearing of people with hearing impairment, the second to ensure the correct frequency of heartbeats, and the last, to maintain the level of glucose in the blood within acceptable standards by the body.
Another example of a treatment gadget is a device that seeks to provide relief of muscle pain – such as in a twist or stretch, for example — using the emission of electromagnetic waves or electric pulses. After diagnosis by a doctor, a professional in the field of physiotherapy helps the user to make use of the device. Thus, the patient himself can do his treatment at home with the use of this gadget.
Finally, one of the gadgets that are becoming famous now, at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the SpO2 meter (percentage of oxygen saturation in the blood). This gadget makes the measurement of this saturation through light sensors. It is widely used by people who have chronic respiratory diseases and need to monitor blood oxygenation.
As a result of some studies that indicated that one of the symptoms of more severe cases of COVID-19 is the presentation of low oxygen saturation rates in the blood, this gadget has been used to monitor the condition of patients diagnosed by the disease. However, there is still no consensus on the recommendation of the use of these gadgets for these purposes, considering that most cases, especially the milder ones, do not present this symptom.
Apart from the gadgets I presented above, there are still some gadgets that were not made for the purpose of health, but that can and has been used for this purpose. An example would be virtual assistant gadgets such as Amazon’s Echo Dot or Google Home Mini. These assistants can be used to give information about diseases, to guide patients, or even to do some kind of follow-up, among dozens of other possible applications.
The trend is to have more and more health-related gadgets every day-from prevention to treatment — and that they are interconnected to medical systems, facilitating doctors ‘ access to patient information. Thus, they help in the Prevention of diseases, raising possible signs of problems.
In this way, gadgets can reduce the cost of treatments, since, with more data, which are increasingly accurate, it is possible to assist in the productivity of health professionals — with machines that can track the signals of patients, the need for professionals for these simpler activities decreases greatly, for example.
At the present time, with the COVID-19 pandemic, patients could be monitored remotely through gadgets that measured signals such as blood oxygenation and temperature – and these data could be sent directly to the hospital or doctor via the internet (principle of the functioning of IoT or Internet of things).
Thus, gadgets bring new possibilities to the health area, providing greater ease for users – whether in the Prevention of health problems, monitoring, monitoring, and diagnosis of diseases or even treatment of acute and chronic conditions.
For doctors and institutions such as hospitals and laboratories, gadgets can be used for monitoring tasks, increasing the effectiveness of treatments and facilitating their daily functioning, and providing important patient data.
In this way, gadgets contribute to the day-to-day life of patients, doctors and medical institutions, as well as opening up new possibilities for monitoring, treatment, diagnosis and Prevention of diseases.