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PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From a service that helps translate 'doctor-speak' to personal apps designed around your DNA, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world...

Karen Summerson
Karen Summerson on October 14, 2012. @KJSummerson

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a snapshot of Ten Innovative Ideas each week that are reshaping the health care industry. Continue reading below for the most exciting ideas from the past seven days.

Service Helps Doctors Translate ‘Doctor-Speak’ To Plain English
HealthTap, an app that allows users to ask questions of a community of more than 15,000 medical professionals, is adding to its available pool of knowledge by integrating research from peer-reviewed medical journals. The company sees its network of doctors acting as mediators, translating the complexity and nuance of these materials from doctor-speak to plain English. The explanations doctors provide are – like their advice – rated by their peers. The better the community deems their colleague’s contribution to be, the higher their rating. In that way, the app both provides information for users who need advice on health issues, and a marketing platform for doctors in search of new patients.

Hospital Uses Temperature-Sensing RFID Tags To Check Temperatures
In order to ensure the health and safety of their pediatric patients, hospitals are required to check their temperatures at numerous times throughout the day and night. This method may not only miss sudden spikes in a patient’s temperature, but can be upsetting and impact a young child’s ability to get a full night’s sleep. As a result, Hong Kong Union Hospital has integrated an RFID system called SmartSense into its pediatric ward. Temperature-sensing RFID tags worn by patients on their abdomen capture and transmit data every 30 seconds to RFID interrogators mounted on walls where it is tagged with the patient’s unique ID and stored for hospital staff. This information can be captured manually using hand held scanners or automatically tracked through a central display. The SmartSense software can also issue alerts to connected devices in the event that a patient’s temperature begins to rapidly rise.

Service Opens An API For Member’s DNA, Personal Apps Next?
Personal genetics company 23andMe, which sells kits to capture and analyze its customers’ DNA in order to provide insights about ancestry, inherited traits, and any possible congenital risks, has announced the release of API that could lead to even more enlightenment and uses for a person’s genetic data. With an individual’s permission, the API would enable authorized third-party developers to build applications that make use of this genetic data. While there are certainly privacy issues – the shared data includes personally identifiable info from a person’s profile – there is also a lot of potential for innovation. According to the company’s director of engineering Mike Polcari, this could include, “apps that would incorporate an individual’s DNA into his or her family tree; apps for running candidate gene studies using data from CureTogether — a community-based health site that 23andMe acquired this summer; and a sleep tracking app that would import SNPs associated with caffeine metabolism and circadian rhythms.”

Toyota Robot Assists The Elderly With Common Household Tasks
Automobile manufacturer Toyota has built a Human Support Robot designed to help the elderly and immobile around the home. Toyota engineers designed the robot to perform simple tasks on command, using an arm equipped with a small suction pad that stretches up to 2.5 feet. The 70-pound ‘droid’ is tablet and voice controlled and can assist users by fetching items and picking up after them. Additionally, a tablet slot on the robot’s head allows it to function as a telepresence device, letting caregivers and family members to communicate with the robot’s owner over Skype or other services.

Handheld Magnetic Device Offers Migraine Sufferers Relief Without Drugs
A non-invasive, single pulse Spring Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) device manufactured by eNeura Technology, may soon offer relief to migraine sufferers without the need for drugs. At a September congress, researchers revealed how three months of treatment with the TMS device relieved or reduced headache pain in 73% of patients treated. As soon as a person senses a migraine coming on, they simply hold the device to the back of the head and push a button, sending a brief magnetic pulse into the brain. Scientists believe the magnetic pulse short-circuits the electrical storm that builds up at the start of migraine headaches. The device is priced at £500 and is about the size and weight of a portable radio.

Social Marketplace Lets Users Shop And Buy Affordable Healthcare Services
PokitDok is a startup that hopes to provide an alternative to insurance-based healthcare by linking prospective patients with providers in their area, helping them understand upfront costs and allowing them to pay with cash. The marketplace is built on top of a peer-based referral system, allowing members to chat with the community to understand the best places to seek care and share their experiences and reviews. Once a member has decided on their treatment option, they can schedule and pay directly through the platform, streamlining their access to both traditional and alternative medical practitioners.

Monitoring Astronaut Health In Space With A ‘Mini’ MRI
As humans look to develop more permanent outposts in space or on nearby planets, providing adequate healthcare poses a difficult challenge. Given the size and weight of advanced medical equipment, transportation and storage are nearly impossible. However, researchers at the biomedical engineering division at the University of Saskatchewan have developed a compact MRI that could provide detailed images of what’s going on inside an astronaut’s arms or legs at a fraction of the size and cost. This mini MRI could weigh less than a ton versus the 11-ton Earth version, would require less power and costs could drop from $2 million to $200,000. The team presented a mock-up of the machine at a conference organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. They hope to win full funding from the Canadian Space Agency to get the machine to the space station around 2020.

Allergic Second-Grader Able To Attend School With The Help Of A Robot
VGo Communications has a released a robotic telepresence product to help isolated patients interact with the outside world. In the case of second grader Devon Carrow, his allergies are so severe that even the slightest allergen can land him in the hospital, but with the aid of the VGo telepresence robot, he is still able to go to school, travelling the halls, sitting in a classroom or even going outside at recess time, all while being 5 miles away. He controls the machine’s movements and camera from home, and interacts through the hi-def monitor and indicator lights on the display. In healthcare, doctors and nurses are using VGo to extend their reach to monitor and remotely consult with patients wherever they may be, and family members are also using VGo to visit loved ones when they can’t be there in person.

Activity Tracker Can Operate For Months On A Single Charge
Fitbug is introducing a new activity tracker called the Fitbug Air that uses Bluetooth 4 to interact with smartphones and tablets. Because the system uses the new low energy Bluetooth 4 standard, the device can go without a recharge or battery replacement, for months at a time. Inside it’s a standard tracker that uses an accelerometer to detect the kind of physical activity the user is participating in. Data from the Fitbug Air is uploaded to a person’s device where coaching advice is offered to motivate more activity. Currently the device offers three syncing settings – manual, periodic automatic updates and real-time streaming. Full access to a year of personalized coaching is available for $65 US.

Website Turns Exercising Into A Fun Game For Kids
Inspired by the fact that childhood obesity is quickly becoming a top health concern, with one in three American children now classified as obese, Zamzee have introduced an activity meter for kids that connects to a website to display activity, get “pointz,” and engage their friends in fitness-increasing games. Results of a six-month study of 448 middle-school kids show that, those using Zamzee were 59 percent more likely to engage in moderate to vigorous physical exercise. Girls who participated in the study showed the biggest increase — 103 percent, and even obese children increased their physical activity by 27 percent. Zamzee is substantially more accessible at $30 compared to the more expensive FitBit and Nike Fuel Band hoping to make impactful health changes where it is needed most.

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on PSFK.com. If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.

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