Feature: Page (1) of 1 - 09/25/16

Home Healthcare Update

By David Ryan for America's Backbone Weekly

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The face of healthcare is changing. In today's technology-driven world, it's not just our computers and phones that are evolving. Home healthcare products are getting smarter. From toothbrushes to pill dispensers to wearable monitors, the way we look after ourselves in the comfort of our own homes is undergoing a radical shift.

Oral hygiene devices

You're not getting your back molars, or you're brushing too hard are typical comments spoken in dentists' offices across the country every day. And according to the Academy of General Dentistry, Americans brush their teeth for an average of 45-70 seconds per day, well down from the recommended time of 2-3 minutes. Fortunately, that may all be a thing of the past, thanks to smart toothbrushes. In early 2016 Oral-B released the Oral-B GENIUS 9000, a toothbrush that is equipped with remote sensing and video recognition technology. It works by linking the toothbrush to your smartphone through an app and hanging the phone at eye level on the mirror. Using the smartphone's camera, the app monitors the action of the toothbrush to determine the amount of time brushing each area, making sure you aren't neglecting any spots. What's more, the brush is equipped with remote sensors that let you know if you're brushing too hard. The GENIUS 9000 retails in the U.S. at $200 - $300 dollars, depending on the store.

Smart mouth guards are also being developed and should soon be ready for market. Researchers at the University of California in San Diego are developing a mouth guard that is equipped with remote sensors that are able to detect chemicals in saliva. High concentration of some chemicals, like uric acid, are indicators of potential health problems. At the University of Florida, a mouth guard is being designed which can detect if you're grinding your teeth. Data is sent via Bluetooth to a computer or smartphone, where dental care professionals can analyze it diagnostically.

Pharmaceutical dispensers

Imagine you're a patient with a serious heart arrhythmia. You take propafenone tablets twice a day to keep your heart stable. Despite the seriousness of your condition, life is busy and hectic and it's hard to remember to take your pills regularly. Forgetting a dose can lead to serious consequences, such as a skyrocketing blood pressure or palpitations. Forgetting that you've already taken your pill is even worse: double-dosing with serious heart medication is potentially lethal. But, until now, these are the kinds of risks that patients faced all the time. Medication management is becoming a whole lot easier these days, thanks to smart pill dispensers, such as the Hero Smart Appliance (which ranges in price from $400 to $1000 depending on where and how it is purchased).


Smart medication dispensers organize your pills with multiple cartridges (the Hero has a maximum of 10) and dispense them based on programmable scheduling. Using remote sensing technology, they even monitor how much medication you have left and notify you when refills are due. Pharmaceutical dispensers will help keep patients on track and prevent overdoses. This is especially true for chronically ill patients who take several medications daily, and whose conditions might make cognitive tasks difficult. This will make it easier for doctors and pharmacists to make sure their patients are following prescribed regimens, as well as turning a profit in sales.

Wearables

Wearables are yet another trend that's revolutionizing home healthcare. Wearable heart monitors, such as Biotricity's Bioflux, track ECG readings from home and send them to doctors and lab technicians where they can be regularly monitored. For the health-conscious, fitness devices like FitBit monitors can be worn to measure vital health data and help with exercise programming. Staying fit means staying healthy, and fewer trips to the doctor's office. It can even mean reduced insurance premiums. John Hancock Insurance recently introduced a program that provides up to 15% rate reduction for policy holders who use FitBit.

Home healthcare trends

How prevalent are smart home healthcare products in the market? As many of them are new and emerging technologies, it's hard to get an exact figure. FitBit reported $1.9 billion in revenue in 2015, a big increase from $712 million in 2014. With projections like that, it doesn't take a fortune teller to see that smart technology is the future when it comes to home healthcare.

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David Ryan has many years of experience as a freelance writer and is active covering science and technology stories in the United States. He also enjoys writing short stories and traveling. 


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