Smart Appliances and Your Health

Your home is getting smarter. For just about any question you have about your health and how to deal with it, there is a device that can answer them.

A smart bed monitors your sleep quality and patterns and adapts to your movements. A smart fridge lets you know when your milk has turned sour and if you have enough greens in your crisper. The portable monitors track your diet, activity, blood pressure, and blood sugar and send the results to your doctor.

High-tech devices like these allow us to be more aware of our health and help our doctors spot problems early, says Vivek Cherian, MD, an internal medicine physician in the University of Maryland Medical System.

“Consumers who take this extra step to take responsibility for their health can hopefully lead to advances in preventive medicine, compared to the more Western approach to the race to treat disease,” he said. he declares.

The digitally connected home

The smart home of the future is available today, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to the billions of devices connected to the Internet and sharing information.

The same technology that lets you see who’s at your door on your smartphone also lets your doctor monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar, and check if you’ve been exercising as often as you should. The IoT connects you to your doctor, and vice versa.

Put you in touch with your doctor

An annual check-up does not give your doctor a complete picture of your condition. “A lot of times we have this very small window of time with our patients. If we’re lucky, it’s 15 to 20 minutes,” says David G. Armstrong, MD, professor of surgery at the Keck School of Medicine. USC.

During the rest of the year, your doctor should always make sure that you are taking your medications, controlling your weight and blood pressure, and managing all other aspects of your health without seeing each other. “So many of these things can now be very easily measured at home,” he says.

With remote patient monitoring, your doctor can track your condition and check the status of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease using home technologies like these:

  • Blood pressure and blood sugar monitors
  • Electrocardiography (using an EKG or ECG) and heart rate monitors
  • Pulse oximeter (to measure oxygen levels in the blood)
  • Smart scale
  • Smart pillbox
  • Wearable devices that track diet, stress levels and activity

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All of this health information is transmitted in real time to your doctor’s office. If these devices detect a problem, your nurse or doctor will receive an alert to contact you.

Some of the new technologies go even further. For example, there is a smart bath mat that can detect hot spots in your foot – a sign that a diabetes ulcer is starting to form. They can let your doctor know before the wound causes enough damage to require amputation. “Now we can identify these skin problems and stop them before they start, very inexpensively,” says Armstrong, director of the Center to Stream Healthcare in Place (C2SHiP).

A pendant worn around your neck can predict when you are about to fall and alert you and your doctor. “Instead of ‘I have fallen and I cannot get up’, now it’s’ You are about to fall and you are about not being able to get up,” said Armstrong.

Smart devices may soon get even smarter. The refrigerator of the future will tell you if you put enough healthy food in it. Your toilet will smell if you use the toilet too often or not enough.

“You can add a layer of automation on top of smart devices,” says Ashish Atreja, MD, chief information officer and digital health at UC Davis Health. “It’s something we’re working on right now.”

Help you age in place

A great app for smart devices is to help seniors stay in their homes safely, instead of having to move to an assisted living or nursing home. With remote health monitoring, doctors and family members can keep an eye on their patient or loved one 24/7.

Not only can sensors monitor vital signs like body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, but smart homes can use artificial intelligence, or AI, to spot differences in normal patterns – per example, if you skipped breakfast or you don’t get enough sleep. Any change will alert your family or doctor. In a medical emergency like a heart attack or a fall, smart devices can call an ambulance.

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Smart devices can also act as drug managers. For example, your pill organizer can not only tell you when it is time to take your medicine, but also distribute the pills and tell you how to take them. “Apps that remind patients to take their medications are invaluable, especially for elderly patients, where it’s not uncommon for them to be prescribed more than 10 medications,” says Cherian.

Smart technologies can also detect changes in the environment – for example, if it is too hot in your home or if there is smoke or gas in the air.

The risks of smart home technology

With so much connectivity, there are a few pitfalls when it comes to privacy.

Anytime you send sensitive health information over the internet, it is possible that it will fall into the wrong hands. “Obviously, there is a security risk,” says Carmen Fontana, expert in emerging technologies. “Someone may hack your information.”

She suggests buying the technology only from well-known manufacturers who have a good reputation for security, a strong privacy policy, and technologies like encryption in place to protect your private health data.

On your side, it is important to have a strong password and to stay on top of all software updates, which usually include security updates.

Also ask your doctor what types of information they will collect and how they plan to protect your safety when using smart connected devices. And remember, “you can revoke access at any time,” says Atreja.

What to think about before you buy

Just like you would when buying a car, do your due diligence before purchasing smart devices, suggests Atreja. Ask your doctor for recommendations and read reviews on the products you are considering purchasing.

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Another consideration is the cost. Today, many of the technologies your doctor prescribes are covered by Medicare and some private health insurance companies, but if you’re buying a consumer product like a refrigerator or a fitness tracker, you’re on your own.

“Understanding what you get and how you pay for it is really important,” Fontana says. Will you only pay a one-time fee for the hardware, or is there a monthly subscription? Will it cost you more to unlock some features?

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Also, check if your device will easily integrate with other tech platforms in your home, such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. Atreja calls it “the connected care ecosystem”.

Finally, check if the device has an active social media community, where users share tips on how to optimize and troubleshoot. “It really helps you get the most out of your device,” Fontana says.

Remember, no matter how high tech a smart health device is, it cannot replace your doctor. “If an application or smart technology brings to light an area of ​​concern, it is of the utmost importance to proactively communicate this information to your healthcare provider, so that they can advise you accordingly,” explains Cherian.

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