Do-it-yourself medical devices can cut down hospital trips

Medical device startups are developing techs that put the power in patients' hands, a development that could cut down on costly hospital visits, so long as users don't develop a false sense of security, experts say.

The Wall Street Journal highlights three such startups, including Oklahoma's Orthocare Innovations, which makes prosthetics that can be adjusted with a smartphone app, allowing patients to skip trips to the doctor just to tweak their artificial limbs.

Other firms are using do-it-yourself techs to collect data and diagnose conditions from home. Boston's Rest Devices is aiming to help sleep apnea patients spend nights in their own beds, not sleep labs, through its yet-to-be-approved sensor-laden T-shirt. The washable device can record data on patients' breathing and export the results to a computer through a USB hookup. And California's Scanadu is developing a handheld device that can identify the signs of ailments like the flu and strep throat, allowing patients to determine whether a doctor's visit is worthwhile.

In the face of rising healthcare costs, patients doing at home what once required doctor's visits is a net positive, Dr. Jason Hwang told the WSJ, but users should be careful not to confuse the convenience of a device with the expertise of a trained professional. "That's a danger when you hand somebody a medical device that looks professional and therefore they think they're just fine using that as a substitute," Hwang said.

And more such devices are likely to come, as the cost of sensor technology has decreased over the past few years, the WSJ reports. The FCC has designated bandwidth specifically for wireless monitoring devices, giving devicemakers incentive to develop the techs. 

- read the WSJ story

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