THE BLOG

Why Your Toilet and Fridge Could Hold the Key to Your Health

11/02/2014 12:50 GMT | Updated 13/04/2014 10:59 BST

The first thing I did this morning, before I even got out of bed, was peel off the patch attached to my upper right arm, which was linked to my Smartphone. My phone then flashed up a precise graph of last night's sleeping pattern. I then made my way to the bathroom where my toilet recorded the volume and make-up of my urine. After a shower, I popped my digital contact lens into my right eye, which monitors my blood glucose levels and take images of my retina, and headed down for breakfast. After inputting both mine and my wife's food choice for breakfast, my Smart-fridge delivered a balanced portion and sent healthy lunch and snack suggestions to my Smartphone for the day ahead. All this information was then transmitted to my Health Cloud for my doctor to access and analyse.

It's the year 2024 and global rates of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, have plummeted thanks to wearable technology, 'Smart' household applications and real-time medical records.

OK, so this is an ideal that we haven't yet reached. But technology is evolving at an incredible rate, which may well make this a reality in the not so distant future. The last few years have seen mobile health, or 'mHealth', shoot to the forefront of many technology and healthcare giants' agenda. Monitoring and delivering health and care via Smartphones and mobile devices is becoming big business and something that holds a lot of promise when it comes to tackling some of the world's toughest healthcare challenges.

Let's take diabetes as our main focus here - a condition where prevention really is key. Mobile technology could potentially play a huge role in reducing rates. Early lifestyle interventions and being able to identify those at risk is something that mHealth can facilitate. By using intelligent touchpoints and smart devices in the home and on the body, doctors and healthcare companies could keep track of people's health, as well as their eating and exercise habits, and alert those who may be presenting symptoms of diabetes.

Smart-shoes could keep track of weight loss or weight gain, devices in clothing could detect irregular blood glucose levels and fridges could keep track of fluid and food consumption.

Currently, around 382 million people have diabetes - by 2035 this figure is set to rise to 592 million. But type 2 diabetes is largely preventable - it's now about reaching those who are at risk, allowing for early intervention and education. And as 80 percent of people with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries, prevention is a cost-effective solution. Even in the least developed countries in the world, mobile technology is widely available and therefore a perfect tool to educate and monitor the health of the masses.

The concept of mHealth is nothing new. Smartphones, apps and wearable devices are already successfully helping people to quit smoking, lose weight, manage their diabetes and track activity, such as running and walking. The next phase is to make mHealth a seamless process, monitoring people's health in real-time, using a range of daily touchpoints and devices.

And we're making tracks. Google recently introduced a smart contact lens that's built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and glucose sensor. Microsoft is working on a smart bra that can measure sweat responses and heart activity in order to detect emotional triggers for overeating. And Swedish researchers are trialing using modified mobile phones to diagnose tropical diseases and parasites in urine and stools.

The future of healthcare, both monitoring and delivering, is heading heavily down the mHealth path. Creating touchpoints at every level of living could easily build up a true picture of a person's sleeping, eating and even toilet habits. Conditions such as diabetes could potentially be reduced, and even eradicated, with the right wearable technology and a 'Smart' home. And the exciting part is that it's not 'if' it happens, but 'when' it happens. We're on the verge of a very exciting new era of healthcare.