I was lucky enough to get down to the Design Museum in late April to check out a showcase of pioneering and hopefully ground-breaking technology in healthcare (yes, I did say healthcare). What struck me most was not how the products on show helped answer common problems in their therapy areas, but how the arts of design and creativity weren’t compromised.
It was so refreshing to see different takes and perspectives on solving these problems, and hopefully it will spark a revolution in the way healthcare/big pharma tackles future challenges.
While there were plenty of diverse products on show, I’ve listed my favourite 5 from different therapy areas below:
The first product that stole my attention more than anything else were these 8 little colourful characters called BleepBleeps. These are beautifully designed products aligned to each stage of parenting from pregnancy to birth to the early years of childhood.
Based on the design of children’s building blocks and coming in eight bold colours, you can’t help but be taken aback by the simplistic and downright cuteness of these products. However, these little guys pack a punch.
Each device connects to the BleepBleeps app and provides access to simple tools, guidance and content to make parenting life that little bit easier. One of the key benefits of the BleepBleeps is they are designed around the idea of storing data. With eventually all them being connected to one device, it will give parents a wealth of information about the health and sleeping patterns of their child, whenever they need it.
This is a Kickstarter-funded initiative and a perfect example of using the concept of the internet of things to create tools, technology and content to help people become great parents while at the same time having a product that looks fantastic.
Another gem that caught my eye was the QardioArm. This is a new take on a traditional piece of medical kit that most of us are used to seeing at our local GP.
QardioArm smart blood pressure monitor is clinically validated to accurately measure your systolic and diastolic blood pressure along with your heart rate. It also has irregular heart beat detection and will store the data in real time, providing your doctor with more practical insights into your heart’s health.
The built-in app takes the reading in less than 30 seconds, and results appear instantly on your Apple or Android device. A real benefit of the app is while these results don’t give an average consumer any real meaningful insight, if you swipe the app right to left, a much more comprehensible chart appears, mapping your blood pressure onto a colour-coded graph (as above). This is where the product and app really earn their stripes with the ability to give you a quick, real-time snapshot of your blood pressure that is simple for anyone to understand.
QardioArm was also the only product entered into the 2015 Design of the Year awards, highlighting its sleek and elegant appearance that wouldn’t look out of place in Apple’s product portfolio.
What is truly different about both this and BleepBleeps is they are great innovative products that are also extremely well designed. They look both stylish and fashionable, something often sorely missed in the design of healthcare products.
A product that I certainly wasn’t expecting to see – described by the developers as “one of the last uncharted territories in women’s health” – is Elvie. This exercise tracker was developed to help women work one of the smallest but most important muscle groups: the pelvic floor.
Elvie is worn internally to directly measure muscle-force contractions, giving feedback via the app. As the user performs Kegel exercises (repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles), the app provides real-time guidance letting the user know that she is doing the exercises properly.
This helps to strengthen these muscles and, in turn, can contribute to better core, back ab strength, and even better sex. They are particularly useful for preventing or recovering from damage caused by pregnancy, childbirth, aging and impact sports.
Further proof that there’s almost always “an app for that”, this brilliant advert for Elvie tackles an issue that is seldom talked about head-on. It also demonstrates an understanding of what is a sensitive and very personal issue. Elvie was the overall winner of the R&D product category.
4: Cupris Otoscope
Another winner, this time in the signs and symptoms category, and a product that instantly makes you feel “why couldn’t I think of that” is the Cupris Otoscope. Marketed as “The doctor in your pocket”, the product turns your smartphone into medical device using simple clip-on attachments.
It connects to a web-based service that allows clinical information to be securely transmitted between healthcare practitioners and their patients. As described on their website, the potential for this product is huge in remote areas where access to healthcare is limited due it’s extremely low cost and compatibility with almost any smartphone device. Also, it gives the opportunity for parents to regularly monitor their children, 90% of whom will suffer ear infections before the age of six, and can hopefully prevent these infections becoming chronic conditions.
This is such a simple and great way to make healthcare provision faster, cheaper and more accessible for everyone. What makes this product really stand out is being able to transfer these shots of the patient seamlessly to anywhere in world, allowing a quick response from a specialist within minutes.
5: iHealth Align
Finally, another stunning-looking device and officially the world’s smallest, most portable mobile glucometer is the iHealth Align. The beauty of the device is that it plugs directly into your smartphone’s headphone jack and displays results instantly on the phone screen. Just slightly bigger than a pound coin, its compact size and simplicity of it mobile sync capability makes it a small and powerful tool for diabetes management.
Again, with most of the technology on show, the device comes into its own through the accompanying app, which is very straightforward to use. It allows diabetics on insulin to track everything they would want to track: insulin levels, medication, eating times, activity, illness and, of course, blood sugars. The app also logs all of your blood sugar levels and gives you averages, trends and statistics for a span of 7, 14, 30 or 90 days.
Again, there is no compromise in design over functionality and it’s crazy the amount you can do with this device considering the size. It seems that great things really do come in small packages…
A common theme that ran throughout the exhibition was the integration of our most trusted companion, the smartphone. Designers are realising the true potential of pairing their devices with this technology and it is allowing them to reach a much wider audience than previously imagined.
There were so many more great products on show, all of which can be found on the AXA health-tech website (https://www.healthtechandyou.com/ ). So if you get the chance, go check them out!
If there are any other innovative products in healthcare that you have seen or heard about, please do share in the comments section below. Long may the tech-health revolution continue!
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