We have jumped feet-first into using technology to help manage aspects of our health care — from period-tracking apps to wrist bands that count your steps. But what will the next generation of health-related technology look like — particularly for women?
Device for at-home breast reconstruction
With increasing numbers of women opting for preventative double mastectomies, there are, in turn, more considering post-surgical breast reconstruction. Typically, people who get breast reconstruction must get saline injections to expand the tissue in the breast area in order to make room for the implant.
A new device called AeroForm is trying to make that process a little easier, using carbon dioxide to gradually expand the breast tissue instead of saline injections. Not only would it be less painful, but it would also allow people to take control of their own recovery process, using the device at home instead of requiring trips to the doctor’s office.
Blood test to diagnose endometriosis
Currently, the only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis — a painful disease that happens when uterine tissue grows elsewhere in the body — is through an invasive surgical procedure. But Heather Bowerman at San Francisco-based Dot Laboratories is trying to make that process much easier with a blood test to detect the disease that affects 6 to 10 percent of American women and is a common cause of infertility. Ideally, it will decrease the average of 11 years it takes for a woman with endometriosis to get an accurate diagnosis.
“Uber for birth control”
Nurx is billing itself as “Uber for birth control,” offering users multiple brands of birth control pills, the patch and the ring. It also offers pre-exposure prophylaxis — a medication called Truvada used to prevent the transmission of HIV. If you have health insurance, then Nurx is usually free, but those who pay out-of-pocket can choose from plans starting at $15 per month. Currently, Nurx birth control services are available in California, New York, Washington, D.C., Washington state, Pennsylvania and Illinois, while PrEP is offered in California, New York and Washington state. Delivery typically happens within 72 hours of your request being approved by a medical provider.
DIY STI testing and pap smears
Getting pap smears and STI tests are typically not high on our list of fun activities. For a lot of women, it’s not even a matter of them being unpleasant, but living in rural or secluded areas may make it difficult for them to receive routine health screenings. To help with this, Toronto-based Eve Medical has developed HerSwab — an at-home STI and cervical cancer test. Right now, it is only available in Canada as part of an Eve Kit, which allows users to collect a targeted sample in less than one minute, send it back to the lab and then check the results online. Unfortunately, the Eve Kit is currently unavailable in the United States, but fingers crossed it’s in the pipeline.
Saliva fertility test
After running into complications getting pregnant, Katie Brenner, a postdoctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison founded bluDiagnostics with the aim to build a better fertility test. The company is working on a prototype that would use saliva to detect female hormone levels in order to predict ovulation and identify other issues that may result in challenges with getting pregnant. The simple testing device could be used at home with the results sent to a smart device. Brenner aims to apply for FDA approval in 2017.