Remember those sci-fi movies like Minority Report where Tom Cruise is operating his computer in mid-air with virtual reality technology? Or when Keanu Reeves has a secret stash of information implanted into his mind in Johnny Mnemonic? Well, this isn’t just fiction anymore. Virtual reality, telemedicine, robotics and even our smart phones are revolutionizing healthcare. Every day, companies are releasing cutting-edge products that promise longer life, better health and easier access to life-changing information and services.
From mental health to grinding our teeth, technology is changing where, when and how we access healthcare. You may have already experienced this if you are one of the millions of people who are tracking your health with a Fitbit bracelet or the Health app on your iphone. For the past 20 years, I have been fascinated by the way that technology impacts humanity. Everyday, I read hundreds of articles and blogs about health and medicine to find the best practices that are shaping the healthcare landscape. Here are 10 new technologies that blow my mind:
1. Holographic medicine
Microsoft and Case Western Reserve University have partnered to demonstrate how HoloLens can be used to teach medicine. In this video, we see students examining bones, muscles and organs in 3D.
“To create holograms, the HoloLens uses a mini computer equipped with lenses, projectors, motion sensors and speakers. The resulting holograms are realistic enough that people may convince themselves that the images they are seeing are real objects. The 3D image that a hologram creates is the result of light particles bouncing around the engine of the computer, going through the goggle’s lenses and ricocheting off of each other as they hit different layers of blue, green and red glass.” (From Medical Web Experts)
How cool is that! The holographic computer could also produce simulations that let future doctors communicate more effectively with patients. For example, doctors could explain complex medical procedures to patients with holograms instead of text or images.
2. Virtual reality therapy for pain
Virtual reality is not just for video games anymore. Daniel Harvie and his colleagues at the University of South Australia are pioneering virtual reality technology that lets you immerse yourself in an alternate reality and cure your pain. Most of us think that physical pain exists only in the body, but research shows that how we perceive pain with our mind has a big impact on the discomfort that we feel. By retraining the brain to experience safe movement in the body, we can learn to become pain-free.
3. Instagram for doctors
Image: Figure 1
While you were sharing what you had for dinner last night on Instagram, thousands of doctors were using a similar app called Figure 1 to share images of injuries, illnesses and mysterious medical conditions. Dr. Joshua Landy, co-founder of Figure 1, says that he wanted to provide a useful tool for doctors to help each other in a safe, private way. Don’t worry about your next embarrassing medical condition going viral on Figure 1; there are strict regulations to use Figure 1 and all the doctors are verified before they have access to the app.
4. Transformational behavioral healthcare technology
Did you know that 1 in 5 people in the United States suffer from depression, anxiety or substance abuse disorder? These conditions are ruining the lives of millions of people. The former CFO of Facebook, David Ebersman, founded Lyra Health to help people with behavioral health problems. Lyra Health uses predictive analytics and surveys to identify at-risk people and then matches them to professionals who can help. And we can all support them by joining the campaign to #stopthestigma of mental illness.
5. Electronics in the brain
Over the past 20 years, we have been implanting electronics into the brain to treat neurological illnesses; but they often cause damage or get rejected by the immune system because of their size and material. A game-changing technology — a small, flexible mesh implant — has been developed, which can be injected into the brain with a syringe, minimizing problems and scarring. It’s less than half a millimeter when injected and then unfolds inside the brain. It’s connected to external wires that allow doctors to improve the function of the brain. One of the features of the implant allows the brain to detect colors and assign a tone to each color, allowing blind people to “hear” color through bone conduction.
6.Heal is the ‘Uber’ for doctors
If you have ever spent a whole day in the waiting room of a doctor’s office or ER just to get a prescription, you will appreciate this new technology. Heal is a smartphone app that lets you summon a doctor to your door for a flat fee of $99. The Heal doctors arrive in 20 to 60 minutes and bring an assistant and supplies that allow them to diagnose and treat minor problems like infection or cuts that need stiches. Heal started in Los Angeles and is expanding to cities all over the United States.
7. Maven turns your smartphone into a women’s health clinic
Next time you are Googling your symptoms on the internet and practicing self-diagnosis, try Maven instead. Maven is a digital clinic for women where you can access medical and wellness practitioners via video to get prescriptions, advice or treatment plans. Similar to Heal, Maven saves you the time and energy of visiting the doctor’s office. The video sessions range in price from $18 to $35 and give you access to a variety of practitioners from gynecologists to nutritionists.
8. ‘Be My Eyes,’ an app that helps blind people see
I was shocked when I saw this app on a TV program a few weeks ago. There was a blind woman in her home holding up a can of food to her smartphone and a voice was reading the label out loud to her. I discovered that Be My Eyes is a non-profit company that uses technology to connect the blind with volunteers who can inspect what the blind person is looking at and describe it to them while answering any questions. Through these direct video calls, more than 80,000 blind people have already been helped!
9. The world’s first mindfulness bracelet for emotional balance
What girl doesn’t like an excuse to buy jewelry? How about a piece of jewelry that can eliminate stress! The WellBe is an elegant, light-weight bracelet connected to a mobile app that helps to keep your emotions in balance. It gives you personalized messages, meditations and other exercises to manage your stress. This super successful Indiegogo campaign was 150 percent funded and bracelets start shipping worldwide in December 2015.
10. Smart mouthguard to protect your teeth
Do you ever wake up with a headache and stiff jaw? Did your dentist tell you that you needed to sleep with a mouthguard? Well, now there is a high-tech solution with sensors that help you stop grinding. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a smart mouth guard that detects if you’re grinding your teeth. Not only is this useful for keeping our teeth safe, but it can even help us sleep better.
Which technologies do you find most interesting? I’d love to know your favorites, so tweet them to me @GabrielleTV!