A design agency has come up with a blueprint for a medical kit comprising all the items you need to make a fast personal diagnosis at home, including a connected camera to send pictures to your physician.
Seattle, USA-based global design consultancy Teague has come up with a concept for a ‘doctor in a box’, in response to a challenge thrown out by US technology, business, and design magazine Fast Company. The magazine asked a number of design consultancies the question: “What one thing in the health care industry desperately needs to be redesigned, and how would you redesign it?” The Teague agency put forward a design for a health-check kit for the home, focusing on providing all the basic items your general practitioner (GP) would use to make a medical diagnosis during an appointment, with the emphasis on saving time for busy healthcare professionals and patients alike. Teague’s idea is for a health kit that you could buy at the supermarket at a reasonable price, so that anyone and everyone would be able to learn to self-diagnose at home. “We’re trying to put traditional general check-up tools into the hands of the patient,” explains Matt Schoenholz, head of The Kitchen, Teague’s experimental hardware lab.
Teaching you how to examine yourself properly
The Teague concept kit would contain two items. One item is basically an improved stethoscope capable of checking on your heart rate and respiratory patterns, with a probe equipped with a fibre optic light to examine your ear and the ability to take high-definition images from the surface of your skin. The second piece of equipment is a teleconferencing camera that can be stuck on to your bathroom mirror and beam video pictures of you to your doctor, with added functionality to monitor your bodily movements and temperature, just like a Microsoft Kinect. In addition, as not everyone knows how to examine him/herself properly, the camera would have an integrated pico-projector to guide your self-diagnosis by projecting images on to your body that show you just where and how to place the stethoscope. Basically it will put a circle on your chest and the image will turn from red to green when you get the device on to the right spot, explains a member of the Teague team.
The technology exists, now for the market...
The Teague team started out from the basic assumption that nowadays most doctors are called upon to perform more or less the same routine tests day after day on all patients, so if patients could use this type of kit at home – carrying out their own check-up and then using the videoconferencing system to contact the physician if necessary – that would free up a lot of space at the doctor’s surgery. If further diagnosis or treatment is required, the kit would enable the patient to perform tests on a regular basis and then send the results to his/her GP. The ‘doctor in a box’ is so far just a concept, but Matt Schoenholz points out that it contains no technology that does not exist today and that if the company sees interest from the market it could actually build a prototype quite quickly. Meanwhile, improving ease of use of medical apparatus in general remains an ongoing challenge. In 2012, US global semiconductor company Qualcomm began sponsoring the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, awarded to companies for developing a device that can “diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board-certified physicians.” These mobile devices must be user-friendly and able to diagnose such conditions as mononucleosis (glandular fever) and hypertension. Over the last three years, Qualcomm has awarded ten prizes under this initiative and arranged funding to enable prototype testing on real patients.