Totally awesome medical tools are popping up all the time. Visionary ideas go through research and development before rolling out into the marketplace, often astounding us.
In other cases, the vision seems a bit short-sided, at least to me. Here are two new ideas to improve our lives through better medical technology. I’m calling one HOT! and the other NOT! (so much).
Meet Tug the robot nurse made by Pittsburgh company Aethon. Basically a box on wheels, this pioneering tool can be found in healthcare settings around the world.
Tug has a top-mounted digital keypad that can lock and unlock for secure storage and access to supplies and medicines. It also performs an inventory scan to track everything stowed inside its front drawers or rear shelves.
Even better, Tug can be modified into a rolling platform for a large waste container, loaded, and sent off to the sanitation department.
Medical staff uses a touchscreen to give Tug instructions before pushing a big green GO button. The robot, which looks a lot like a rolling office copier, can deliver food and drugs autonomously and offload other time-consuming tasks from valuable staff members.
When Tug arrives at its pre-programmed destination, it waits until someone unlocks it to unload laboratory samples or whatever else might be needed to keep operations running smooth, even at busy times.
Tug uses lasers to detect obstacles and navigate. It will stop if you step in front of it and block its path. If it senses a way to go around, it will. This technology is called lidar and is very cool: Tug bounces lasers off its surroundings to create a detailed 3-D map. It also has a map of the facility where it works
By starting at a known point, the roving medical robot can find its way through corridors and doors. It can even summon the elevator.
Best of all, Tug is incapable of going rogue and killing us all, thanks to a team of technicians at the home office who monitor all their robots everywhere in the world. This is handy when a Tug gets stuck and no human is around to help.
What I like best about this robot is that it doesn’t pretend to be your best bud. There is nothing humanoid about this helpful piece of technology and, for some reason, I find that completely endearing.
Scanadu? Scanadon’t! This suite of portable hand-held scanners comes from a consumer medical technology company based in Sunnyvale, California.
Scanadu products rely on smartphone technology. They can be used at home or just about anywhere else to match symptoms with diagnoses.
You can use the palm-sized Scanadu Scout to scan parts of the body. The device checks its database of known diseases and conditions. It tells you, based on the symptom-matching software, if you need to see a doctor or not.
This main feature from Scanadu raises alarm bells because it gives a “best match” answer as if it were a 100% match. In other words, this machine doesn’t seem programmed with the acronym IMHO (in my humble opinion) – it is laying down the medical law as someone else made it to do.
The machine then goes on to recommend the best course of action like “Rest at home” for Roseola rash. Do we even know for sure if an M.D. programmed this thing?
Scanadu Scout reports vital signs when you hold to your temple for less than ten seconds. “Data collected by the device is transmitted via Bluetooth to a smartphone, where the Scanadu app will display pulse transit time, pulse rate, electrical heart activity, temperature, heart rate variability and blood oxygenation.” That data can also be routed to a doctor’s office.
This aspiring medtech company preys on everyone’s desire to avoid doctor visits and focuses in on parents’ fears when Junior comes down with spots and promises instant DIY control of the medical situation.
Scanadu Scout claims to “give you all the information you need to understand the situation.” It leads the user through entering additional symptoms and evaluates body temperature: 103.8F is a High Fever, for example.
But what if the device missed a critical diagnosis? Do you really want to entrust your child’s care to a photographic inventory?
But wait, there’s more. The device has an app that will send an alert in case a medical crisis has been reported – before you see it on the news. The example they gave was, “Whooping Cough in your area.” This means the Scandu uses Snoopware that knows where you are.
A different kind of alert identifies family members by name and delivers appointment scheduling reminders, like a digital personal assistant.
“It would also give you advice on what to do next.” Is it just me, or do we really want machines telling us what to do when our health, safety, and well-being is at stake? You decide.
Scanadu also markets a urinalysis smarttool (ScanaFlo) for sample collection and evaluation. The advice given for a positive test for a urinary tract infection is “requires prompt treatment with antibiotics.” There is a link to the reasons for that diagnosis. It will test for complications during pregnancy, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, kidney failure, and urinary tract infections.
ScanaFlu sizes up cold-like symptoms in a flash. It can test saliva for Strep A, Influenza A, Influenza B, Adenovirus and RSV.
Then the app uses its GPS map to show you nearby healthcare facilities, their distance, and long to get there.
“We’re building a way for people to check their bodies as often as they check their email.”
Oh please no. I can barely keep up with my email, much less my body.
Ironically, Scanadu Scout failed to get Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and has abandoned its startup customers. One of them, Dr. David Fraser, wrote in an email::
“They basically took our money, took our data, took the learnings from the process and dumped the very backers who got them started. No recompense, no future trade-up voucher, nada!”