Technology for Better Health

Published 02/26/10


How cell phones and smart programs keep track of your medical needs.


Announcer: Cell phones, smart phones, and laptops are already a big part of America's work and social life. Now they're becoming a tool to help patients and their doctors keep track of treatment.Your cell phone: you swear you can't live without it. For a growing number of people with chronic medical conditions, that's not an exaggeration. Laurie Fails has type 2 diabetes, and a cell phone that helps her manage it. Laurie: It's calling for my sugar reading. Announcer: Laurie's part of a program that turned her phone into an interactive diabetes monitor. Laurie: What are we all walk out the door with every and checking to make sure we have? That's a cell phone. Announcer: Laurie does her normal glucose test and enters its results, plus information about what she eats and how much she exercises into the phone. Laurie: It comes back and tells the patient, "You're blood sugar is just right, that it's a little high." They might say, "Drink water and take a walk." Announcer: Similar technology is keeping dieters on track. Speaker 3: People are just not good about writing down what they eat and being accurate about it. Announcer: So, researchers are testing a new system. At every meal, study participants take cell phone pictures of their plates before and after eating. They immediately send them to a dietitian to count the calories. Speaker 3: The doctor or the dietitian can receive the picture right away and then give automatic feedback to the person who sent the picture, so that that person will know what they need to do differently next time in order to reach their goals. Announcer: Linda Guy was stunned to find out how much she was really eating.Linda: I was eating like two, three times more than I should have been eating.Announcer: Now that she has an image in her mind, she can adjust her portions. From food to mood, smartphone applications now allow people with depression to track mood patterns, so they and their doctors can determine the factors that affect them. There are also apps that allow you to keep track of you or a loved one's medication schedule, blood pressure, cholesterol, and asthma-related symptoms. Even while Max Busey appears calm and content...Max: The finches will like it.Announcer: His heart might be quivering dangerously.Max: I had some sensations above my left side and some flashes.Announcer: Max had a stroke. The cause is unknown, but doctors suspect a common culprit: atrial fibrillation. He became the first person in the country to have a new tracking device implanted in his chest.Speaker 4: We are doing this study to prevent from recurrence of stroke.Announcer: The device alerts doctors when Max's heart is speeding up or slowing down.Speaker 4: And this is the antenna, actually, that has also a sensor, where it senses the heart rhythm and sends that wirelessly, to a base collecting data, and also to the handheld device.Announcer: Learning what caused Max's first stroke helps reduce his risk for a second one.Announcer: Better health management through a marriage of gadgets and grit. Laurie: It's really did a lot to improve my confidence and my ability. There's the technology factor, but there's a human factor with this program as well, and that's really important.

Show Full Transcript