smart stethoscope and teleconferencing camera


Telemedicine has so many potential benefits that it is hard not to get excited when a reasonably promising solution surfaces.

    Just to list a few:

  • It could reduce the high costs of health care that are driving the US (and global) economy into the red.
  • It could reduce the co-pays for the patient when all a she needs is a quick look, some simple advice, or a phoned in prescription.
  • It could give rural residents access to the higher quality healthcare available in more urban areas or from academic medical centers.
  • It could help medical providers collaborate through more diverse teams.
  • It could allow physically or mentally challenged individuals access care without assistance.

My Take

So I was curious when I read about the Doctor in a Box system from design firm Teague. Unlike some of the limited systems that run through a smartphone, the Doctor uses specialized hardware that the patient keeps at home.

“We are trying to put traditional general checkup tools in the hands of a patient,” says Matt Schoenholz, head of Teague’s experimental hardware lab, The Kitchen. The team is working theory is that most doctors today are running around all day, room to room, just to perform a few rudimentary tests. The kit allows patients to run those tests at home, either when a doctor is present on a call to make sense of the information, or as a private, daily ritual that can gather trends over time to bring back to the doctor.

First, there is a smart stethoscope with a variety of sensors – enough to give the remote doctor a wide variety of vitals. It has a camera that can beam video to the doctor or project the video so that patient can see her own back. Both of these can be used more frequently than the usual scheduled doctor’s visit, so doctors get better longitudinal maps of the patient’s condition.

The second benefit is the human factors component. The Doctor can help the patient find the right spot to examine by projecting a visual image onto the patient’s body. Similar assistance can be provided for other simple activities to improve the ease of use and accuracy of the diagnostics. It has soft probes to reduce patients’ anxiety and increase the actual comfort of using it (which is often a deal breaker for telemedicine probe hardware).

Your Turn

The design is still at the conceptual stage, but it seems to have a lot of potential. Teague claims they can develop the idea into a working system in the immediate future (whatever that means).

    So here are the questions for you today:

  • Do you see potential in the concept?
  • What changes would you recommend to Teague as they develop the final version?

Image Credit: wt vox

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