Imagine if a cool tattoo or a pair of contact lenses could help save you from this all-too familiar scene:
You schedule a doctor's appointment for the morning, knowing full-well that means you'll have to take anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours off work depending on where your doctor's office is. Then you get in, and there's inevitably a wait to be seen. And, after you're seen, you'll probably have to wait around to have blood taken or, worse, make another appointment to come back.
People in a waiting room. Photo via iStock.
Now imagine you have a condition that requires you to have your health numbers — blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol — monitored by a doctor at least once a month. The situation just went from frustrating to ridiculous.
Thankfully, we live in an age of astonishing innovation that's making health monitoring a million times easier — meaning that maybe in the near future, you won't have to go through this routine quite as often.
There are a bunch of exciting new gadgets being developed right now that will allow us to take more control of our preventive health care. While they're not on the market yet, many of them should be in the not-too-distant future.
Here are five examples of cutting-edge technologies that aren't just cool, they could be time and potentially lifesaving.
1. This biosensor tattoo could tell you what's going on in your body.
You know how mood rings change colors with your "mood" — i.e., they change color with the temperature of your body? Well, MIT is developing something kind of similar, but instead of a ring, it's a tattoo, and instead of your temperature, it can sense things like blood glucose and hydration levels.
The tattoo ink is called Dermal Abyss, and it reacts with the body's interstitial fluid (which is what surrounds your cells), changing colors in response to internal changes. There are three different color inks that monitor your body's glucose, pH, and sodium levels.
For example, if you're diabetic, instead of having to prick your finger an inordinate amount of times a day, you could just look down at your tattoo. Pretty cool, huh?
2. Wearing this sweat-monitoring wristband could tell you if you're drinking enough water and much more.
Photo by Wei Gao/UC Berkeley. Used with permission.
Sweat can reveal a lot more than just a hot day or a healthy workout. According to engineers at the University of Berkeley, it can assess various medical conditions as well. That's why they're developing a wristband designed to monitor the makeup of sweat.
It has sensors that discern the sodium, potassium, glucose, and lactate levels in a person's sweat. They connect to a circuit board on the band that calculates the data and sends it to a laptop or smartphone.
But it doesn't just keep track of important health numbers. It can also detect drug use, which would make athlete doping a lot harder to pull off.
3. These smart contact lenses might one day diagnose you using your tears.
Woman putting in a contact. Photo via iStock.
Soon, your contact lenses could do so much more than just help you see better. For the past several years, researchers at Oregon State University have been working on smart lenses to monitor blood glucose levels in the body.
In order to create the prototype, engineers actually used indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) — a material used to improve the quality of smartphone screens. They found that the sensors in the contacts were so fine-tuned they could even detect trace amounts of glucose in tears.
But that's not all these contacts could do.
Gregory Herman, co-author of the study says the sensors could be developed to monitor conditions like cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and kidney or liver disease.
4. Meet Helius — a smart pill that can tell how well your other pills are working.
Photo via iStock.
We take pills to treat symptoms, but what if there were a pill that could monitor the effectiveness of pill-taking? That's exactly what Proteus Digital Health has been developing over the last several years. It's a smart pill that records how a patient is taking and responding to their pills. That way, if a treatment course isn't working, doctors will have a better idea as to why that might be.
Sorry, pill avoiders. This invention will unmask you (and keep you healthier).
The best part is your doctor can check in on your progress whenever they want, and if something doesn't look right, they can alert you right away.
5. If you wear this bra for an hour, it will tell you if your breasts are healthy.
Regular, at-home breast exams should be a part of every person's life, but sometimes early signs of cancer aren't easily felt or seen. That's why Julian Rios Cantu, an 18-year-old from Mexico, started developing a smart bra that can detect the more subtle signs of early stage breast cancer.
It's called the Eva Bra, and while it's only a prototype right now, it could revolutionize cancer prevention when it hits the market in January 2018. The bra comes equipped with bio sensors that detect subtle changes in skin temperature and tissue elasticity. All a person has to do is wear it once a week for 60 to 90 minutes, then the patch sensors send the data they collect to their phone or tablet.
This would be especially helpful for people who might've had breast cancer before and thus need to be more closely monitored for recurrences.
Of course, while all this exciting new technology could help you stay healthier, it's not a substitute for preventive screenings with your doctor.
Regardless of how advanced remote health monitoring gets, having your doctor assess your health numbers is a vital part of keeping yourself in tip top shape.
What it can do, however, is alert you to a change you might not otherwise have noticed so you can get yourself checked out before any serious damage is done.
Keeping tabs on your body is the best way to protect it. Innovations like these will make doing that so much easier.
Learn more about how to take control of your health at Cigna.com/TakeControl.