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'Talking' Medical Devices, Apps Continue to Evolve

Innovations can help people manage their conditions, function in emergencies, keep doctors informed
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Another medical device with promise is the Scanadu Scout, said Dr. Christopher Scorzelli, chief medical officer at Kablooe Design, a Minneapolis company that invents, designs and engineers medical and other devices. His company is not involved with the scanner, made by California-based Scanadu. The product is still in development.

The website for the new scanner says that it will "enable anyone to conduct sophisticated physical exams" on themselves, or as their promotional video suggests, on their sick child. The new scanning devices will be able to keep an ongoing record of daily vital signs -- heart rate, respiration, temperature and oxygen saturation. The scanners will be able to "talk" with patients and doctors via text or other messaging system. Physicians will be able to get a much richer picture of a patient's recent health status, Scorzelli said.

"Think about the snapshot your doctor gets -- they see you maybe once a year and then maybe your insurance changes and you switch health care providers," he said. "There's no continuity of care. What we're hoping is that if we attach a device to your body it will give you an idea of where you are day to day and month to month."

Health devices that talk to each other, not just to the patient or doctor, are another big growth area right now, Scorzelli noted.

"There's a lot more now about smart devices able to talk to other devices -- being able to get updates from different neuromodulation devices and implantable defibrillators about what the activity has been," he said.

But Scorzelli said for talking devices to move forward successfully, inventors and designers need to think broadly.

"Anyone designing a talking device now needs to think about things like will it work in multiple languages? If so, are there slang terms that mean something completely different in another land?" he said. "And to think about how it functions in its environment. There are a lot of devices recalled because the creators don't think through the human issues. The human factor is much more critical, much more important than people give it credit for."

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