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What's in your first aid kit at home? Is it full of band-aids, bandages and over-the-counter painkillers?
With digital technology changing healthcare, a new generation of gadgets lets us take our health into our own hands – and spend less time in the doctor's waiting room. The future of the first aid kit is here.
At just 17, American Joe Landolina, while experimenting in the lab, developed an adhesive gel that supports the blood’s natural clotting process (haemostasis) – in other words, it stops bleeding. Quickly. Like magic.
The gel has already been developed for use on animals and it's also being tested on people. It could soon be the go-to method for stopping major external bleeding in just minutes.
Sticking a mercury thermometer in your mouth for three minutes to get a reading – which may not even be accurate – is a thing of the past. You hold next-gen thermometers five centimetres from the skin, and they take just two seconds to give you a reading of medical-grade accuracy.
These futuristic thermometers – and there's a growing range to choose from, including this one by Withings – connect to your smartphone so you can record your temperature in the companion app and add comments. Some use emojis to record how you're feeling. You can also view reports from other users nearby to find out when a potentially contagious bug is going around.
There's a growing number of devices, such as AliveCor, that turn your smartphone into an ECG monitor to detect heart attacks. They connect with your phone to give clinical-grade readings of your heart rhythm in about 30 seconds. An accompanying app evaluates the readings and data can be sent to a hospital for diagnosis.
(Of course, self-diagnosis isn't always the best approach, and you should always seek advice from a doctor or go to a hospital in an emergency situation).
We've all heard of 3D printing, but what about 3D-printed medication personalised for you?
Last year, scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) devised a way to use a 3D printer to create low cost pills with customised doses and release rates (such as constant, increasing or decreasing), depending on the patient's needs. Personalised healthcare just moved to a whole new level.
They are calling it a revolution in asthma management – smart inhalers that help patients take their medication more accurately and monitor their symptoms.
The CareTRx inhaler, for example, wirelessly synchs to your smartphone through its companion app and automatically stores data. It gives reminders and lets you know if you are over or under your prescribed dose. The data from these devices enables healthcare professionals to easily monitor a large number of patients and track trends over time.
Technology is transforming the way we manage our health. Swallowing 3D-printed pills and diagnosing a heart attack with your phone might sound far-fetched, but it’s all much closer than you might think.
In the meantime, you can read about how Google has released a series of 'health cards' to help you diagnose your symptoms. So, next time you get a mystery rash or strange cough, you can search for verified medical information without leaving your couch.