Issue #21: Smart Health Gadgets are the future of healthcare — Jason Michael Perry

Last week, Mindgrub hosted AI in Action, the first of many AI events, and we focused on the impacts of AI and tech in healthcare. I enjoyed joining a fantastic panel with Aaron J. Burch, Co-founder of Alterwood Health, Susan FinlaysonSVP at Mercy Medical Center, and Akshay Mani from Johns Hopkins, moderated by Todd Marks, Mindgrub’s CEO. I’m hoping to share a recording in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, check out this teaser video I filmed with my drone:

During the event, I mentioned my experience with OneMedical, now part of Amazon, and how painless it made talking to my doctor. OneMedical is a modern primary care facility that you join for a $ 199-a-year fee. With that, the group promises zero wait times, the ability to text message or email a doctor 24/7, video call options, and an app that allows you to share information from various digital health devices directly with your doctor, no matter where I was. This changed how I viewed my health data and convinced me to explore what more was possible.

Since moving from DC to Baltimore about 8-years ago, I have not found a provider comparable to OneMedical, but this hasn’t stopped me from cobbling together my digital health system using smart gadgets that provide me a deeper insight into my health. So far, I’ve invested in a bunch of digital health gadgets, including an Apple watch, smart scale, blood pressure cuff, smart water bottle, smart toothbrush, a smart thermometer, and the original eight sleep mattress cover from Indiegogo, and I keep eyeing a smart toilet that could analyze my post product. Next, I made sure to find a doctor with a health record system that supports Apple Health, allowing me to get a dashboard view that includes the doctor’s notes, blood work, and lab data.

Apple Health became my business intelligence (BI) dashboard that let me see trends around my health in excruciating detail, like my weight gain during COVID. It also allowed me to notice correlations between the impact of what I eat and how stress impacted my blood pressure and sleeping habits. Over time, Apple has introduced additional features like medication tracking, which I also use to keep track of my daily vitamins, and the option to share this data with a close family member or doctor.

I’m by no means the perfect picture of health, nor do I aspire to live forever. Still, this process has made me aware of what’s possible in the new frontier of medicine. In this place, a combination of tech-savvy doctors, good digital tracking, and AI can allow us to use this massive amount of data to find trends or make predictions on health in ways that once felt impossible. When you combine this with workout data and daily activity, you begin to see the positive impact that a walk or bike ride can have.

Another revelation of learning about my health data is that we have a shockingly small sample size of this type of information. Hospitals and Universities conduct studies all the time, but sample sizes, limits on geographies, and caps on the length of time can keep them limited. However, health apps like Apple Health or Google Fit change that by allowing more extensive studies of anonymized data sets by capturing and sharing the data from watches or phones we carry with us all the time. Apple has tried to make these studies easier with open-source research initiatives called ResearchKit and CareKit, which provide a series of tools for extensive studies using a mobile app to capture data and simple, painless enrollment processes. They also offer an Apple Research app that allows you to explore existing research studies easily and agree to share health data with several studies.

After Steve Jobs died, Apple CEO Tim Cook imagined that in the future, many might look at Apple as a healthcare company vs. a tech company and was recently quoted as:

“If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ It will be about health,”

I can’t help but watch Amazon and Apple’s moves into healthcare and wonder how increased access to innovative health gadgets and increased data insights might tell us about our health and potentially open the doors to AI that can make suggestions or notify us of trends. Now, onto some thoughts on tech & things:

  • The Financial Times has an interesting article on SEC chair Gary Gensler’s fears of AI causing a financial crisis in a decade. I think his concerns are a bit alarmist, but he’s right that, slowly, much of Wall Street could depend on AI models from a smaller and smaller group of tech companies. This is the money quote: “It still doesn’t get to this horizontal issue . . . if everybody’s relying on a base model and the base model is sitting not at the broker-dealer, but it’s sitting at one of the big tech companies”, Gensler said. “And how many cloud providers [which tend to offer AI as a service] do we have in this country?”
  • Over the weekend, several nerdy Tesla owners cheered in delight as Tesla introduced an official API with documentation. This opens the door for tinkerers and developers to create mobile apps or integrations before impossible; it could also open the door to better sharing of battery and charging load with third-party apps. I can’t wait to see what people do with this! 
  • Best Buy announced plans to stop selling DVDs in stores after removing CDs in 2018. It’s amazing how much digital product sales have changed the face of electronic stores, and one must assume that video games are not far behind. 
  • A few months ago, I learned of an AI platform named Replika that allows you to create a digital AI companion or friend. At the time, I thought little of it, but learning of a man’s 3-year romantic relationship with AI has me curious to revisit the app. I guess the movie Her is not so crazy after all.

If you have kids, a sick relative, or an elderly parent, get them an Apple Watch or another health-tracking device. A feature my coworkers have found to be a huge stress reliever is the Apple Watch’s ability to detect someone falling or getting in a car accident and call 911 while instantly notifying the person(s) you configure as an emergency contact. Your phone will also display medical details such as blood type or allergies using Medical ID.


p.s. Predictive analysis is amazing. The more data we have, the better we can get at detecting how we might die or the likelihood of having a disease like cancer. I have high hopes that we use this for our betterment and not to create a world like Gattaca, but let’s not forget that with so much data and understanding comes great responsibility.