Published on June 22nd, 2015 | by Jugal Parekh0
Blurring the line between technology fantasy and reality – Digital Health Live 2015
Movies and books have always been the mode of introducing technological fantasies to the masses. An interesting note on this is the reduced time to reality! The devices envisioned in Star Trek, starting in the 1960s (how many of us were even born then?) ranged from the complicated Tricorder to the PADD to video calling. And, where are we about half a century from then – Scanadu Scout to the smartphones and tablet, and the popular Skype/ Facetime / C’Me. Along came the new millennium, and movies like Minority Report and IronMan, pushed the envelope to a completely connected human – almost of a cyborg equivalent; we are not very far from integrating these technologies into meaningful daily-life routine.
The Digital Health Live 2015 event that took place from 5th-7th May 2015, organised by Nuviun, brought to Dubai, a collection of mind-blowing technologies. As the event name suggests, a very important objective of this exhibition, was to showcase the technology LIVE to the attendees. Add to it, the technologies on display, and spoken about at the conference dealt exclusively with, possibly, the most important aspect of our life – Health. To embody the spirit of the event into a one-liner pitch – the event showcased the paradigm shift to bring the patient to the centre of the healthcare world utilising feasible technology. I proudly say how UAE/ Dubai’s forward-thinking vision of accelerating towards becoming a smart city has excited the world’s foremost experts on this subject to select it as one of the pioneering locations.
The traditional healthcare model focuses on a hospital/ doctor centred model, where a post-event reaction leads to monitoring and treatment. The digital health model will bring patient to the centre through 24/7 surveillance, and a pro-active approach towards condition management. We are already utilising a host of products, which could be utilised for our health monitoring purpose – be it the step tracking on the latest smartphones, or activity tracker; the portable blood pressure and glucose monitor devices; and even our weighing scales. However, presently there is a divide between at-home care, and our hospital/ clinic care.
To bring experts’ and our imagination to reality; honestly speaking, to make people less speculative about experts’ words and heavily jargoned PowerPoint slides on how technologies can make “our world a better place to be in”, the event organisers converted the Sheikh Maktoum Hall into an amazing simulator of a City where these advancements were part of our daily lives. And who, if you may ask, were the citizens of this amazing Dubai of the future – every attendee of the event! Our attendee plastic badges did not merely hang around our neck, but the barcodes on them provided us a unique identity, and converted each and every one of us into an engaging digital health citizen! Believe you me; the simulator had an everyday home, with a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and a living room; a city hospital, a leisure zone, a gym, an out-in-the-desert setting, and even our beloved Dubai Metro station in the mix!
Let us take you, the reader, through a tour of this fantastic and healthy Dubai of the near future. You wake up in the morning, and head to the bathroom, where a Minority Report kind of user interface on the mirror laden with sensors (I will henceforth forego the reporting of sensors’ presence, as they are everywhere!), captures your vitals, giving you an overall health status. This forms the foundation of how your day would begin, and the health data is utilised from hereon, to determine the routine daily activities suggestions based on some smart analytics, and expert (doctors, nutritionists, etc.) recommendations. By the time you get to the kitchen for breakfast, the smart refrigerator will suggest the meals you should eat, not only based on your lifestyle goals, but also on what ingredients are readily available in stock. The smartness goes a step further, and even sends you a shopping list, when the inventory is running low, or your nutritional availability seems imbalanced. The living room television can be utilised to make a video call with your doctor, avoiding the need to commute, and wait at the doctor’s clinic or hospital aka telemedicine. The plethora of connected medical devices, in a patient friendly way, would transmit all the necessary health vitals to the physician’s office, for a useful consult. Would the need be that you do need to visit a city hospital; your health data forms a useful medical history for the treating doctor. The health IT infrastructure would be more integrated with the patient’s needs, and the patient would be able to view, and review all data pertaining to his/ her treatment and care. Bringing the best care to the patient, the surgeon, as demonstrated by Dr Rafael Grossmann (the first surgeon to utilise Google Glass live in surgery), would have access to the latest knowledge resources, literally, at the blink of an eye. Appropriate IoT (Internet of Things) devices would ensure the healthcare facilities are operating in an efficient and safe manner. Digital hospital would also assist researchers and scientists to develop more effective and safer pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The smart city also encompassed other experiences with the basic fundamental of utilising your health data to make your life healthier.
Some of the other products showcased at the exhibition included an indoor air monitoring IoT device called foobot; a wearable vest called Hexoskin that monitors vitals related to your heart, breathing, activity and sleep – all in real time; and a smart ambulance by Dubai Ambulance, along with desert responder units.
On the conference sides, experts weighed in, and discussed the different aspects and implications that a digitally connected healthcare would have on an individual – be it security, privacy, and behavioural changes for adaptation into a daily lifestyle. Simultaneously, the macro issues, which come along with revolutionary technology, like regulatory hurdles, and infrastructure requirements were also discussed. Interesting concepts like gamification of treatment plans were presented as viable and effective disease management tools. Overall, it was an encouraging and progressive discussion about, as John Nosta concluded, “because at the end it is about patients.”
It has to be noted that some of the technologies displayed at the exhibition, like the smart bathroom mirror, or the smart refrigerator, and even an interactive XBox Kinect-using game, were world-first prototypes, and these were all developed by Nuviun themselves. Another interesting point is that this event was co-endorsed by Dubai government bodies such as Dubai Health Authority, and Smart Dubai. To have government bodies as strategic partners is a very encouraging step in the direction of not keeping these concepts purely conceptual – a fact that was resounded by almost every attendee of this event.
A digitally connected healthy lifestyle is our future, where our health takes centre-stage, making it preventive care rather than reactive care. Will we need to wait another 50 years to see this in our daily-life? I can safely bet it to be within the next 10 years, considering companies such as Nuviun, and visionary cities such as Dubai, bringing it ever so close to meaningful and sustainable reality.