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Toyota Entering the mHealth Market with a Steering Wheel ECG Sensor

A couple of months ago I wrote about Ford’s journey into the mHealth market.  They intend to use their SYNC technology to do such things as monitor blood glucose level, monitor heart rate, and even help manage stress.

Toyota is now doing research that may lead to similar offerings.  In the midst of researching new safety technologies such as a pre-collision system and a steering control feature, they have also developed an ECG integrated steering wheel.  Something Ford has opted to do through a sensor in the driver’s seat.

The Toyota version is fed by sensors in the steering wheel that monitor heart activity.  It does require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel, but could provide life saving alerts.  By monitoring the driver’s heart signal the driver may be able to recognize an oncoming heart attack before it happens thus allowing for a safe stopping of the car as opposed to a dangerous accident.

While the technology sounds pretty cool, I think that Ford’s overall approach is more intriguing.  While an ECG sensor may be valuable to relatively older people, things such as diabetes and stress are something experienced by people of all ages.

They have also already demonstrated the use of great technology in their SYNC system.  It would not surprise me to see Toyota start offering similar technologies, but for now Ford is definitely leading the way.

July 27, 2011 I Written By

Is a Lack of Effective Marketing Holding mHealth Back?

Let me preface this post with an acknowledgement of my relative inexperience in healthcare.  I have always thought that I stayed at least relatively informed of what was going on in the world in general, but these last few months of writing this blog along with a few others in this network has truly opened my eyes to my ignorance.

I am the type of person that loves to learn new things.  I may not know anything about a specific topic, but if someone is teaching I will always listen because understanding new things fascinates me.  When this opportunity first came up I saw it as a way to help my brother, who is the founder of and, as well as a way to stay busy while awaiting some training.

In the months that have followed I have been completely blown away  by the technology that is out there, and the companies that are providing it.  It isn’t even hard to find an article or press release about a new gadget or app that completely blows my mind.  Maybe this is sue to my relative inexperience, but I also think it is in large part do to the amazing things that developers are creating.

It was not that long ago that all a cell phone did was make calls and maybe send text messages.  Then they added cameras which was pretty cool.  Now those cameras are better than the stand alone digital camera that I bought less than 3 years ago.  Now you can access the internet from anywhere you get cell service.  We aren’t just talking about box scores from sporting events or headline news, but the internet in all its glory.

Smartphones are cool for internet access if nothing else, but my recent “education” has taught me that we have only scratched the surface.  We now have microscope cameras, blood pressure monitors, blood glucose monitors, fitness trackers, and even “nano-tatoos” that provide a range of information.

What I don’t understand is why so few people know about it?

As I try and talk with friends and family, outside of my healthcare IT brother, they have no idea that these things even exist.  They are generally aware that there are apps for just about anything, but they have no idea the power some of these apps have.

The power that I am referring to is the power to save lives.

I can’t help but wonder if a lack of marketing to the public has to do with this?  Are these developing companies still too small and broke to really get their products out there?  I don’t claim to be a marketing or business genius, or even an amateur for that matter, but if people don’t know about your product they can’t buy it.

I am not even referring to these companies becoming rich as much as I am referring to the improvement in health that more people could be enjoying if they only knew about these devices.  As I write this it strikes me that it may be the sheer number of apps and gadgets out there that is preventing their widespread adoption.

Anyone with a little programming experience and $10 a month for a website can create a “healthcare app”, so how are people supposed to wade through all the garbage to find the truly valuable ones?  Maybe this is where the FDA, or some other large organization needs to step in and provide some real oversight of these devices.

If people had a source to go to for accurate information I can’t help but think they would use it.  People visit Kelly Blue Book, and Edmunds, and a handful of other sites for information about cars, why wouldn’t they so the same thing if a reliable healthcare company presented a valuable overview of the good stuff out there.

Maybe I am displaying my ignorance with this post, but with the amazing technology that is out there, and the relative small distribution of quality apps and gadgets I can’t help but wonder what is holding it back?

July 25, 2011 I Written By

Stanford Professor Discusses the Future of Technology in Healthcare at TEDxMaastricht

Smart Phone Health Care is all about technology in healthcare.  The amazing things that we can do with our phones.  The cool apps we can download.  The amazing little gadgets that we can buy.  All of the little things that can make life more fun, more healthy, and hopefully longer.

While doing research for one of our other blogs, EHR and EMR Videos, I came across a great video from the TEDx series.  TED talks are something I was very familiar with, and utterly enjoy.  TEDx was new to me, but is essentially the same idea just available on a broader and more local scale.  The topics are equally important, and the speakers are equally entertaining.

The talk was given by Daniel Kraft who is a professor at Stanford during TEDxMaastricht.  He really does a fantastic job of hitting on a whole lot of areas of healthcare, and how technology is making so much more possible than we ever had before.

Rather than rehash everything I have already written I will simply direct you to my other post which can be found here. I highly encourage you to take a look at the video as it will completely blow your mind with the technology that already exists and how it is going to change the way that billions of people live their lives now and in the future.

July 22, 2011 I Written By

Amazon Offering Textbook Rental on the Kindle

Unless you have exceptional athletic ability or wealthy parents, college is an extremely expensive adventure.  My large student loans that I will be paying on for the next decade or two can verify that if you have any doubt.  I can only imagine how bad it must be for medical students.

One of the most annoying expenses is the exorbitant price of textbooks.  I am pretty sure every college student has paid $100+ for a textbook that they didn’t even open, but were required to buy.  Then you go to sell the book back, and they offer you a whopping $10.  Well, at least you can buy lunch.

One of my greatest discoveries in college was the ability to buy, and sell, used textbooks on Amazon.  This saved me tons of money throughout my years, but I was still stuck with books that I would never use again that weren’t worth the postage to mail back.  They now have a new feature that makes life better on both ends.

Tens of thousands of textbooks are now available through the launch of Kindle Textbook Rental.  Through this program students can rent textbooks for anywhere from 30 to 360 days.  For shorter periods they can save 80% off the print list price. The rental period can be extended at anytime for a period as short as a day, or even buy the book at anytime.

Some of the cool features are that you can make margin notes and highlights that you can save even after your rental period ends.  Should you decide to rent the book again all of your notes will be retained through Whispersync technology on the Amazon Cloud.

Kindle textbooks are also available through the free Kindle apps available on PC, Mac, Apple devices, Windows phone, Android, and Blackberry devices.  That means that students can access their textbooks from pretty much anywhere.

For more information the press release can be found here, or you can go straight to their website at

July 20, 2011 I Written By

BioHarness Body Area Network Now Embedded with AT&T 3G/4G

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There are so many apps and trackers and gadgets out there that it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what is worth having and what is not.  The backing of AT&T should give some insight into the power of the Zephyr Technologies BioHarness™ Body Area Network.

This is not the first time we have written about this amazing technology.  One of our most popular articles was about the Under Armour Biometric Health Data Collection Shirt.  This shirt has been used at places like the NFL combine to track athlete performance.  In the past it utilized bluetooth to transmit information to its targets, but this new deal with AT&T will allow information to be transmitted directly to a physician or other health provider.

One of the most interesting applications that was mentioned in the article was medics being able to track military personnel on-demand across the wireless network.  Being a member of the military myself I have seen numerous situations where this technology could have been used to improve healthcare, and in some cases, save lives.

In terms of the company itself, this technology could be so widely applied that they have definitely positioned themselves for great success.  In the past, the weakness of this technology was their mobile app that was used on smartphones.  With the embedding of 3G, and eventually 4G, technology, they may have eliminated this weakness and created an even more amazing tool.

One of the weaknesses mentioned in our previous article was the cost of these devices.  That will likely not be a huge deal when it comes to professional sports or the military, but for the everyday person it must be cost effective.  It will be interesting to see how this new technology will affect an already pricey piece of equipment, but it can definitely provide very valuable information.

July 18, 2011 I Written By

Smart Walking Stick Monitors Vitals and Calls for Help

This is one of those devices that I can’t help but think it should have been developed sooner because it is simple yet brilliant.

A concept called simply “the aid” this walking stick is designed to give confidence to those who have suffered traumatic injuries.  The cane provides vital signs to help users better monitor their health.  It also provides a simple navigation system to help you get home.  Should an emergency occur it can even call a central health center and give them your location courtesy of “the aid”.

Having had family that relied upon a cane to simply get around, a device like this would have given the whole family more confidence in their safety.  When you have already had a major injury that requires the use of a cane, you are even more scared that something worse will happen because you are so unstable.

The 2011 Fujitsu design award was given to “the aid” designer Egle Ugintaite from Lithuania.  In his words:

”the aid’ is mainly dedicated to help elderly people, or people after trauma who often have a lack of confidence to step outside their house, causing isolation, depression… ‘the aid’ is designed to be a real ‘helping hand’: to guide and prevent one from being lost, providing a feeling of security, allowing one to receive immediate help if they need it, and, of course physical support, as a walking cane. an integrated navigator, which works as a service + health device (pulse, blood pressure temperature) features measuring sensors along with an SOS button, which, by pressing it when help is needed, contacts the help centerand sends the user’s current health data and location to provide immediate and qualified help. the object is simple to use (2 buttons only), but at the same time smart.

A much more in depth description and a bunch of great images can be found at this website.

July 13, 2011 I Written By

Toronto Hospital Giving Tablets to Patients

Much of the hype for healthcare IT in hospitals is that doctors are acquiring tablets at an increasingly high rate.  The adoption of tablets is helping to improve healthcare, and making life easier on doctors with every new development.

University Health Network in Toronto, Canada is taking a new approach by handing tablets to their internal medicine patients.  This pilot study is designed to help improve the transition to at home care.

As reported by InsideHealthZone, the tablets will provide a number of interesting abilities.  The first being that patients will have more direct input on their medical record.  They will be able to contribute their own observations and concerns as well as asking questions.

The tablets will also provide the names and pictures of everyone in their healthcare team.  This will allow all members of the team to access pertinent information about the patient without the hazard of miscommunication.  According to the article,

U.S. studies that show 100,000 patients die every year in that country because of medical errors, 80 per cent of which are communication-related.

That is a huge number that could be lowered with better communication.

This gets to the heart of what the University Health Network is trying to achieve with this and other initiatives.  They are trying to modernize the healthcare they provide from the bottom to the top.

One of the amusing things they mentioned was the use of smartphones vs. pagers.

In the 1990s, the only people who used pagers were doctors and drug dealers. Now the drug dealers have moved on. That’s the reality. We still use pagers in hospitals.

It does not take much research to realize that healthcare is moving to an electronic platform in everything.  Those places that refuse to get on board will be left behind and may disappear completely.

July 7, 2011 I Written By