Thursday, May 07, 2015
FCC's New Year’s Resolution Under Thomas Wheeler: "Using Broadband to Get Healthy and Stay Well"
It’s that time of year again . . . resolution time. You often hear that people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits. From eating better to being more active, we all tend to see the New Year as a way to make a fresh (and healthy) start.
But sometimes convenience is a major factor in making our health resolutions stick. That’s where broadband and technology comes in. As demonstrated at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, there are a variety of technological advances already being used to improve health and health care. And as we saw in “Back to the Future,” technology has the ability to make one truly “fly” – and in today’s world, broadband provides the wings.
Recent advances in broadband-enabled sensor technology offer the potential for more convenient, and ultimately less-costly and less-invasive solutions. Some devices, such as the fitness trackers (that many of us got as holiday gifts) can give us that extra motivation necessary to maintain healthy habits. But there are others, from pill cameras to injectable devices that, while less universal, are increasingly available from your doctor or other medical professional. The exciting advances just around the corner can boggle the mind.
These new types of broadband-enabled health technologies are generically called “ingestibles,” “wearables” and “embeddables.” It’s worth getting familiar with these technologies and talking with your doctor about how digital health tools can help you.
Ingestibles are broadband-enabled digital tools that we actually eat. For example, there are "smart" pills that use wireless technology to help monitor internal reactions to medications. Also, miniature pill-shaped video cameras may one day soon replace colonoscopies or endoscopies. Patients would simply swallow a “pill,” which would collect and transmit images as it makes its way through the digestive system.
Wearables are digital tools you can wear, such as wristwatch-like devices that have sensors to monitor your heart rate and other vital signs. Beyond medical monitoring, such wearables may also help improve athletic performance, track fitness goals or help prevent dangerous falls in the elderly. We may soon see widespread use of smart clothing – or smart “tattoo” applications – that use skin-based sensors to measure things like heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.
Embeddables are miniature devices that are actually inserted under the skin or deeper into the body. A heart pacemaker is one kind of embeddable device. In the future, embeddables may use nanotechnology and be so tiny that doctors would simply “inject” them into our bodies. Some promising applications in this area could help diabetes patients monitor their blood sugar levels reliably and automatically, without the need to prick their fingers or otherwise draw blood.
Have you used these types of technology to address health concerns? Share your story.
To learn more about how broadband technologies support health, read our Ingestibles, Wearables and Embeddables tip sheet.
The Connect2HealthfccTask Force is working to raise consumer awareness about the value of broadband in the health and care sectors. Learn about the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force.