Consumer Health Technology

Technology is the backbone of everything we do at the agency where I work, and we’re proud to sit firmly, legs dangling, on that cutting edge.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the amazing things that technology can do to make a client stand out pales in comparison and importance to what it can do for the health and wellbeing of their patients. And we’re not just talking about the incredible machinery that saves lives right at the front line. No; sometimes it’s the smaller things that can make a real difference. Things like:

GlowCaps

Alex Muller, junior brand manager, kindly shared this amazing product with me just the other day. He was the inspiration for this post, actually (thanks Al).

GlowCaps are alternative lids for prescription pill bottles. Able to screw onto most US retail pharmacy bottles, GlowCaps come fitted with glowing lights and wireless chips to gently remind you that you need to take your pills. They flash and call your phone when you need to take your pills, they send email updates to nominated friends, order refills and send a monthly report to you and your doctor.

PiOna

This one is at concept stage at the moment, but if it ever gets made, it’s another great example of one of those small things that makes a lot of people’s lives easier. Described as a ‘Star Trek’ style medical device, the PiOna addresses the problems of women undergoing in-vitro fertilization; namely the painful daily injections of progesterone in oil.

The PiOna is a device that not only hides the needle (sight of the needle itself being, psychologically, a big part of the stress behind self-injecting), but provides feedback about when the needle is ready to use and hand-holds the user through the process through audio and visual signals.

JettPak

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective. The JettPak (again, at concept stage at the moment but hoping to be marketed this year) is an adjustable nebulizer, pure and simple. Children with asthma often need treatment with a nebulizer, but this involves wearing a mask and remaining upright – making it a worrying experience for children and one that, despite often being advised to the contrary, is impossible to administer while sleeping.

The JettPak, a sort of classic desk-lamp looking thing, is an adjustable nebulizer with a nozzle on the end, rather than a mask, meaning that kids can lie down and relax whilst the medication is administered.

To some, this kind of innovation can come across as gimmicky, or lazy, or unnecessary. This simply isn’t the case – for many, many people around the world, the problems that these products address can be truly debilitating, as small as they may seem to those of us lucky enough not to have to stick to healthcare regimes. Forgetting medication is something everybody does, but for some, forgetting a pill can be dangerous or even life-threatening. People who need to self-inject daily often register depression levels commensurate with people with cancer or HIV. And any product that improves the life of a child who needs at-home medical attention is a good thing.

The desire to push technology further is often prevalent in healthcare, but sometimes the focus can be on the bigger things, rather than the everyday. In health, as in communications, sometimes those little technological tidbits make far more of a difference.

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