WHAT OTHER TYPES OF PERSONAL HEALTH INFORMATION CAN BE READILY COLLECTED?

WHAT OTHER TYPES OF PERSONAL HEALTH INFORMATION CAN BE READILY COLLECTED?

Most health-related measurements are administered in or through a doctor’s office and are typically taken when we are sick; the measurements that are taken when we are healthy are infrequent, and we often do not know what our baseline personal measurements really are when we are healthy. In addition, many types of common events that might influence one’s health, such as pathogen infections, or changes in eating habits or other lifestyle choices, are often not captured in any systematic way, if at all.

New technology is emerging that allows continuous monitoring of physical activities, as well as physiological parameters and biomolecules. Much of this technology consists of wearable devices (sometimes referred to as sensors or “trackers”) such as Smart Watches and wrist bands that continuously record one’s movements and exercise (steps, cycling, running), heart rate, skin temperature, sleep, and stress (often measured as skin conductance due to perspiration). Many other portable devices measure important physiological parameters such as electrocardiograms, oxygenated hemoglobin, fat content and weight, although not continuously. There are hundreds of such devices on the market and a partial list is presented in Table 1 and Figure 1. Some of these devices are even free applications that can be downloaded onto  a mobile smartphone. Inexpensive life-logging devices exist that take photographs at high frequency (e.g., every few seconds) and thereby record your activities at high resolution. There are even such devices for pets. These different devices such as Smart Watches can make over a million measurements on a single person each day.

It is likely that some of these devices, such as the Smart Watches, will become standard equipment that nearly every person will use. These  devices will soon have the potential to warn of adverse events well in advance, such as an abnormal heart electrocardiogram predicting a future heart problem. However, even common illnesses might be flagged early. For example, when a prolonged elevated heart rate, increased skin temperature, increased perspiration, and decreased appetite, all occur together, this might suggest the early onset of a pathogen infection before the person is even aware of it.

Table 1. Examples of monitoring devices. There are now hundreds of wearable devices or “sensors” that follow physiology and activity and biochemical  molecules

Parameter                                                                        Device/Manufacturer  (examples)
Physical activity (Steps, Cycling,  Running) iPhone (Moves); Basis, Fitbit,  Jawbone, AppleWatch
Heart rate Apple Watch, Basis, Scanadu
Skin temperature Basis, Scanadu
Galvanic skin response Basis
Sleep quality Basis, Beddit, (SleepyTime—App)
Oxygenated hemoglobin Scanadu, iHealth
Blood pressure Qardio, Scanadu
Glucose Dexcom
Calories/Nutritional log MyFitnessPal, Cron-o-meter—Apps
Weight, Body mass index (BMI), Body fat  percentage Withings, QardioBase
Photography of activity (color sensors and passive infrared sensor) Autographer
Global Positioning System (GPS) Moves—App
Electrocardiogram QardioCore,  Scanadu, iHealth
Mood Muse, Emotiv, Melon  Headband,
Muscle exertion Athos, OmSignal
Fat content Skulpt
Radiation exposure RadTarge II

Figure 1. The bionic person. Examples of wearable devices that can be used to continuously or periodically track physiology and  activities.

More recently, new devices have been invented that can continuously measure important biomolecules (also called bioanalytes). There are contact lenses and skin attachments that measure glucose levels in the body, and it is only a matter of time before devices that continuously follow many more bioanalytes become available. In the future, these devices can be personalized such that key molecules important for the individual can be monitored. Add these to the already established invasive devices that control and monitor heart beat, and those that can photograph and analyze our food, and we are gradually progressing toward a bionic world where we will have at our disposal a variety of mechanical devices that continuously measure a multitude of factors important for our health.

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