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PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From a future filled with 3D printed vaccines to a smart car that monitors a driver's health, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world...

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs on November 11, 2012. @scottlachut

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.

Build Vaccines With A 3D Printer
Geneticist Craig Venter and his team of scientists imagine a future where we will be able to download software, print a vaccine, inject it, and avoid the spread of epidemics. The so-called ‘3D printer for life’ or digital biological converter is already being tested by working through scenarios where the team have less than 24 hours to make a new vaccine. This has game-changing implications for public health, and for biodefense by overcoming the bottleneck in fighting infectious disease, which is one of manufacturing and distribution. While speaking at the Wired Health Conference in New York City, Venter pointed to issues of regulation, privacy and safety being key factors in how quickly these advances will be able to move forward.

Site Helps Patients Find A Better Doctor
BetterDoctor is a service that aims to help US residents improve on their current provider or find a specific service on short notice by making the process simpler and more efficient. Patients select the type of doctor they are after, from GP to dentist, and then they choose the insurance plan they are on to ensure the doctor will accept them. The site then lists the relevant doctors, along with information about their background and contact details, which can be automatically sorted by proximity if a user opts to share their location. Members can also save their favorite doctors and share them with friends and family. The site is available across the US and has 600,000 doctors’ profiles for members to choose from.

Fitness Tracker Knows What Exercise You’re Doing And Calculates Accordingly
Amiigo is a fitness bracelet and shoe clip with a corresponding app that can identify what type of exercise a person is doing based on their movements. It uses gesture-based software algorithms to differentiate between exercises, while various sensors (motion, accelerometers, infrared) track data like heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and skin temperature in real-time to measure how effective the individual is performing. The Amiigo app lets users follow their data, set fitness goals and custom challenges, share workouts, and earn fitness points, which can lead to discounts on fitness gear. The startup aims to raise funds on Indiegogo later this month, where backers will be able to get their hands on the fitness bracelet for $89, with shipping expected to be in April 2013.

Exercise Helps Children With ADHD Focus Without The Need For Drugs
A Michigan State University study shows that exercises can diminish distractions and increase academic performance of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This provides evidence that exercise might be a tool in non-pharmaceutical treatment of the disease. While medication has been used to effectively treat many of the 2.5 million school-aged American children with ADHD, parents and doctors are getting more concerned about side effects and costs of drugs. Physical and mental tests were made with 40 children between 8 and 10 years old (half of them had ADHD). All of them accomplished better on tests after exercising. The results support calls for more exercises during school hours, since previous research has found that kids with ADHD are less likely to be physically active or play organized sports. As there isn’t much evidence to justify why schools should implement physical education programs, the MSU study might provide this type of support.

Embedded Sensors In Household Objects Help Seniors Visualize Their Mental Health
In an effort to offer greater independence to seniors, dwellSense has developed sensors that can hide in pillboxes, phones, and coffee makers to make sure older patients are taking their pills properly, as well as to track any potential cognitive or physical health issues. The various products serve similar functions from tracking when pills are taken, cataloging missed phone calls and misdials, or in the case of the coffee maker, monitoring to see if necessary steps are completed in the proper order, all without requiring individuals to change their daily behaviors. Started as a project at Carnegie Mellon, dwellSense has since received funding and support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a grant from  Project HealthDesign, and is currently entering a testing phase.

iPhone App Rewards Users For Following Prescription Plans
Mango Health has developed an iPhone app that has been set up to meet the needs of people who take prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and nutritional supplements. By entering a text or snapshot of medications and supplements, the app defines the possible interactions between various combinations to provide the user with necessary warnings. The app also allows users to log activities, keep a schedule, compare themselves to other people taking the same medication or facing a similar health situation, and be motivated by getting points discounts and rewards for following doctors’ orders. As 75% of U.S. adults admit not to following physician prescribed treatment plans, Mango Health believes that its design and game mechanics can encourage people to be more cautious and serious about their treatments.

Headscarves Offer Cancer Patients More Than Just Security, Release Relaxing Aromas
Textile company Murray Hogarth has partnered with Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design and South of Scotland Business Solutions to design a line of ‘smart’ head scarves to help women who are having chemo or radiotherapy cope with some of the side effects associated with the treatments. Called, ASHA, the garments are created with micro-encapsulated textile finishes, which can offer a range of solutions such as UV ray management, temperature regulation or the release of vitamins and moisturizers. One of the finishes incorporates small, airtight capsules containing a chosen scent that is embedded into the textile fiber. When the garment is worn, friction causes the capsules to burst, releasing a subtle fragrance, such as aloe vera or lavender.

‘Smart’ Car Monitors A Driver’s Driving Habits And Health
Researchers at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in collaboration with BMW have developed a truly smart vehicle called Nigel, a mini-Cooper equipped with a 230 sensors that monitor the health of both the car and driver. The goal of the project was to go beyond simply displaying a list of statistics and data about the vehicle and its user, instead creating a car with character and personality that uses “storytelling” to motivate the driver to change their health, as well as driving habits. Nigel’s technology includes MEMS-enabled devices and ultrasound-enabled sensors, which would allow a user to instantly measure vital statistics by placing their hands on the steering wheel. There are even ideas to incorporate pollution sensors and oxygen content sensors to tell drivers when they’re passing through heavily polluted areas.

Spray-On Solution Glows When You’ve Gotten Poison Ivy
Scientists at the University of California at Santa Cruz have developed a nontoxic spray that goes fluorescent in the presence of urushiol, the oily sap on poison ivy leaves, which can cause a person’s skin to itch. The idea is that being alerted to exposure could prompt immediate measures such as using over-the-counter skin cleansers to remove the plant oils before they can cause a serious reaction. The nitroxide-based solution was mixed with a fluorescent dye to literally highlight where contact has occurred. The spray is currently undergoing further testing before it can be marketed to outdoor enthusiasts.

Google Guides Employees To Healthy Food Choices Through Simple Design Changes
Google is a company known for its unconventional corporate amenities, such as laundry service, game rooms – and free food and snacks. The latter perk was so popular that new employees were warned that they should expect to gain weight during their first six months. To help combat this, the company has begun placing healthy snacks, like apples and bananas, front and center in snack-filled micro-kitchens, while sugary food are less accessible. After implementing this tactic, Googlers in New York reportedly reduced their calorie consumption from chocolates and candies by 3.1 million calories. Google also started giving employees the option of eating their meals on smaller plates, which is designed to subtly help with portion control. The overall idea is to offer the presence of choice, while making healthier choices more frictionless. This is all part of Google’s daring plan to increase the lives of their employees by two years.

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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