A fridge that detects when medications are getting low and orders repeat prescriptions and reminders on digital assistants such as an Alexa to take your pills could just be months away.
Add to that a clinic where doctors spend more time looking at their patients than their keyboards while an Amazon Alexa records the information for them, then the future of health could start to look a whole lot different in the next few years.
While it sounds like something out of The Jetsons, Pinnacle Midlands Health boss John Macaskill-Smith says the technology is already available and affordable.
He believes using domestic products like a smart fridge or digital assistant such as Alexa or Google Home to manage healthcare is a way people can better look after themselves and avoid costly hospitalisations.
“There’s a lot we can do in the community to keep people well or better manage people with long-term conditions by using technology to manage them at home.” he said.
“Our hope would be reducing the burden on the hospital systems.”
The AWS (Amazon Web Services) Experiential Village has been set up at the Health Informatics NZ’s Digital Health Week conference at Claudelands in Hamilton this week to demonstrate how technology is changing the way healthcare is provided in the community.
Pinnacle Health informatics manager Alex Poor, who has type 1 diabetes, said having a continuous glucose monitor measuring his blood sugar levels significantly lowered the chance of going dangerously high or low.
In the village’s home of the future, Poor’s glucose levels are transmitted to the smart fridge for all to see and can help him make better food choices and help family members monitor it too.
On the home of the future’s living room table an Alexa holds his medical notes and recites what medication he is on and reminds him when to take it.
But the technology isn’t just for diabetics and, according to Macaskill-Smith, could also be a game changer for people with other chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the elderly.
In the clinic of the future, an Alexa records and adds the key notes onto the patients’ file.
“Use voice to reduce a lot of clutter in the conversation. Take the keyboard away, take the monitor away. then put on patient file that clinician and patient have access to.”
An electronic stethoscope then records an audio file so the doctor can see and listen to it at any time.
A patient can also use it – something Pinnacle Health believes will make virtual GP appointments even more frequent.
Macaskill-Smith said using the technology should save money as it should reduce visits by helping people with conditions such as diabetes to better control their conditions and also avoid hospital stays.
“We are bringing down the cost of a lot of these early diagnosis or home monitoring devices.”
He said home assistants were used widely in the US for things like navigation and communication, so it made sense to add health management to it.
“So I think all of a sudden people are going to have more ability to manage themselves at home, to interact with care teams from home without having to leave their day-to-day activities, that’s available today, it’s cheap and it’s coming, it’s not something that will turn up next year or [in] 10 years, it’s here right now.”