Temporary tattoos and microchips in the bloodstream that broadcast medical information: are these the future of medicine? A story at the NY Times “Bits” blog suggests we might not be far away from such revolutionized healthcare:
Later this year, a Boston-based company called MC10 will offer the first of several “stretchable electronics” products that can be put on things like shirts and shoes, worn as temporary tattoos or installed in the body. These will be capable of measuring not just heart rate, the company says, but brain activity, body temperature and hydration levels. Another company, called Proteus, will begin a pilot program in Britain for a “Digital Health Feedback System” that combines both wearable technologies and microchips the size of a sand grain that ride a pill right through you. Powered by your stomach fluids, it emits a signal picked up by an external sensor, capturing vital data. Another firm, Sano Intelligence, is looking at micro needle sensors on skin patches as a way of deriving continuous information about the bloodstream.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of microchips on your skin or inside your body, or turning over personal medical information to a database, you’re not alone. But developments like these in medicine are inevitable:
“Ultimately, we see ourselves as a part of the healthcare ecosystem,” Amar Kendale, MC10’s VP of market strategy and development, said in an e-mail. In this future, he wrote, “data will need to be shared seamlessly between customers, providers, and payers in order to reduce heathcare costs and simultaneously deliver the best possible care.” Proteus hopes to use anonymized data from its customers to understand health patterns over an entire population, presumably to revolutionize medicine.
At Via Meadia we’ve been arguing that our healthcare system is too bloated and too expensive whether it’s single-payer or Obama-, Romney- or whoever-care, and it’s news like this that gives us hope. Someday soon, computers, robots, and microchips will take over much of the medicine business from human beings. Picture a vast database, for example, with access to your personal and family medical history, the results of medical studies from all over the globe, medicines being tested in current studies, calculations on success rates of various pills and treatments—and then imagine a device in your home capable of running your personal information through that database to figure out why you’ve been feeling weird for the past couple days.Revolutionizing medicine is a road blocked by enormous hurdles, not least the people whose livelihoods evaporate when technology makes their jobs obsolete. Quite understandably, MRI technicians, surgeons, pharmacists, and many others want to keep their jobs.But it might not be up to them for much longer as companies like Proteus and MC10 starting to really bridge the gap between science fictional medicine and the real world.(H/T to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.)