When I went for my annual physical just last month, a nurse gave me a memory test that included answering questions like the day of the week, the season, and the town we were in, copying a simple geometric shape, and recalling a short string of words. Perhaps for next year’s physical, or soon after, she’ll just hand me a tablet and have me complete a series of puzzles instead. Tests and tools to detect dementia, depression, and cognitive problems are already available in mobile apps running on tablets. Real-time activity monitoring wearables are on the drawing board.
Mental illness and memory and cognitive disabilities affect millions and cost approximately $2.5 trillion dollars today, with projections of 500 million people and a cost of more than $6 trillion by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. In many cases early detection with timely treatment can lessen or delay the onset of disease, so the stakes are high for advances in this field.
British firm Cambridge Cognition Holdings Plc currently has a full suite of highly validated cognitive assessments using touchscreen puzzles on tablets to test for depression, schizophrenia, dementia, autism, Down syndrome, epilepsy, Huntington’s, multiple sclerosis, stroke/cerebrovascular disease, Parkinson’s, and other conditions and diseases. These assessment apps are approved in Europe for use by researchers and healthcare providers.
Cambridge Cognition recently announced a joint venture with Ctrl Group to develop apps using a wearable device to monitor real-time activity, sleep, communication, media habits, and more. The data would be transmitted via low power Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet for storage and analysis. Because the symptoms of many conditions can vary widely, a continuous record of activity could provide more insight to patients’ overall health.
Wearable Health Tech devices, carryables, low power wireless, cloud storage, and big data analysis have the potential to track and predict health and medical problems. This could lead to earlier detection and more effective treatment, which have enormous implications for improved quality of life as well as immense financial savings. And to think that much of this started with devices that merely kept track of the number of steps you took each day!