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How wearables are changing the face of healthcare

29 Oct 2014

Wearable technology is advancing in leaps and bounds with a number of devices being developed and released that are designed specifically for people with various illnesses.

For one, Google is developing a pill to detect illnesses such as cancer. In theory, this pill can send microscopic particles into the bloodstream that will identify everything from cancer to imminent heart attacks.

Andrew Conrad is the head of life sciences in the Google X research lab and he has announced this project at a conference in Southern California. He says Google is working toward creating nanoparticles that combine a magnetic material with antibodies or proteins that can attach to and detect other molecules inside the body.

Patients will swallow a pill that contains these particles which will identify molecules that can indicate bodily health. A wearable device that will be worn around the wrist to gather the magnetic cores back together and provide information about what they found. Conrad says this could be configured so the information can be sent via the internet to your doctor.

This is just one part of a wider project by Google to develop technology that can be used to improve healthcare. As Conrad put it, this involves building ‘gizmos’ that can monitor your health in new ways.

Another device that has been unveiled by Google is a contact lens that can enable diabetics to monitor blood glucose levels through tears in their eyes.

Google says it does not intend to sell these devices, rather it will work with third party medical companies to release the technology.

Leigh Heiss is a Melbourne based artist and designer who brings together art, design and science. She works closely with experts in the field of nanotechnology, manufacturers and more to create a range of devices.

One of her projects is diabetes jewellery. The Diabetes Neckpiece, released a few years ago, is a wearable applicator device that applies Nanotechnology Victoria’s NanoMAPs to the skin. This is a pain-free way to deliver insulin to the body without the need for syringes.

More recently at Dreamforce 2014, Royal Philips and Radbound University Medical Centre unveiled a prototype for proactive COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patient management.

Mobile, digital and cloud technological applications that will assist with COPD patient outcomes, care coordination and empowerment to healthcare are all accessible through a wearable device.

“Together with Philips, we are exploring and developing tools to enable patients to be true partners in their own healthcare, thus creating a digital platform for patients to collect data from EMRs as well as personal wearable technology," Lucien Engelen, director REshape Innovation Center at Radboud university medical center explained.

"Our collaboration with Philips creates the scale needed for a globalising sustainable healthcare approach."

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