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After his young son fell 36 feet from a window in 2005, Walter De Brouwer spent the better part of a year at the hospital. Nelson, his son, had endured severe brain trauma. In addition to a lengthy rehabilitation, Nelson required vigilant monitoring; his vital signs were checked daily.

For De Brouwer, a 55-year-old Belgian inventor and entrepreneur, Nelson?s protracted rehabilitation confronted him with the inner workings of hospitals and their intricate technology. Staring at the monitors inside the emergency room and ICU, he grasped how significant their measurements were in saving lives.

?I looked at all the monitors, but I never actually asked myself what these things meant about our health,? De Brouwer said. ?It struck me that when you understand exactly the readings today, you can actually make a plan so that your future changes.?

De Brouwer struck upon the idea of making vitals checks easier, not only for medical personnel but for everyone.

?What would it be like if you could have the power of a hospital in your hand?? he asked.

Inspired by the 1960s television show ?Star Trek,? which featured the use of a medical tricorder that could instantly scan for bodily ailments, De Brouwer founded a company called Scanadu and went about inventing a real-life tricorder: the Scanadu Scout.

The circular Scanadu Scout, which will eventually retail for $199, fits easily in the palm of a hand and creates an electrical signal when placed against the forehead. That signal produces an electrocardiogram that records your respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature. It also has PPG sensor that records your blood oxygenation.

Scanadu uploads the data to a mobile app, where you can check the results within 20 seconds. By storing your data, the app creates a history of your vital readings and establishes a baseline for normal measurements.

By placing this technology in the hands of the consumer, De Brouwer says people will become better educated about their health and better aware of warning signs. He also believes it can have broad economic benefits for hospitals, by cutting triage processing times and decreasing premature visits.

?If you know this information now about yourself, you know also where you have to go in the future to become healthier,? he said. ?You can make a plan.?

In the video above, De Brouwer tests the Scanadu Scout on a couple of ABC News employees, all of whom had healthy vital signs.

?Isn?t anyone here unhealthy?? he asked after testing a fifth enthusiastic employee.

The Scanadu Scout is available for preorder on Scanadu?s website.






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They also make a gadget called Scanaflo that tests urine levels of glucose, protein, leukocytes, nitrates, blood, bilirubin, urobilinogen, specific gravity, pH and tests for pregnancy.

Combine these with the cell phone based EEG, ultrasound, and other miniature diagnostic addons and the medical toolkit is getting more portable all the time.

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Now if we can just get computers to do accurate diagnoses, we can forget about doctors. :laugh:

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Considering that it's predicted a supercomputer will soon fit in a cell phone sized case -


Doctor Watson

Computer-aided medicine

TWO years ago IBM attracted a lot of admiring publicity when its ?Watson? program beat two human champions at "Jeopardy!", an American general-knowledge quiz. It was a remarkable performance. Computers have long excelled at games like chess: in 1997 Deep Blue, another of the computer giant's creations, famously beat the reigning world champion Garry Kasparov. But "Jeopardy!" relies on the ability to correlate a vast store of general knowledge with often-punny, indirect clues. Making things hardest still, the clues themselves are, famously, phrased as answers, to which contestants must supply an appropriate question.

Yet IBM has always had bigger plans for its artificial know-it-all than beating humans at quiz shows. On February 8th it announced the first of them. Together with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre and Wellpoint, a health company, it plans to adapt the system for oncologists, with trials due to begin in two clinics. The idea is to use the machine as a sort of prosthetic brain for doctors, by delegating to it the task of keeping up with medical literature.

What is really impressive about Watson is not so much that it thrashes humans, but how it does so. The machine extracts ?meaning? from vast quantities of what computer scientists call unstructured data, which essentially means anything designed to be consumed by humans rather than computers. To prepare for its "Jeopardy!" appearances, the program was fed (among other things) dictionaries, archives of newspaper articles, lexical databases of English and the whole of Wikipedia. From these it was able to extract relationships between concepts and become deft enough with metaphors, similes or puns that it could cope with the show?s elliptical clues.

It is this ability to process human-oriented information that IBM hopes will be useful for doctors. The volume of medical research is huge and growing. According to one estimate, to keep up with the state of the art, a doctor would have to devote 160 hours a week to perusing papers, leaving eight hours for sleep, work and, well, everything else in life. Fortunately, Watson doesn't need any sleep.

IBM's ultimate goal is for Watson?or a small computer running the front-end, since the processing itself will take place on an internet-connected supercomputer?to compare patient notes with the information harvested from medical journals, treatment guidelines, etc. It would then suggest several treatment regimens, ranked by how effective it thinks they are likely to be. Watson may even suggest clinical trials that the patient could be enrolled in.



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