Your glasses, contact lenses and a tiny implant will soon be your family doctor, reducing the work load for the medical specialist. According to Chris Van Hoof, a patch that will be able to predict heart failure, is no more science fiction. Van Hoof is in charge at Imec for the program concerning wearables in healthcare. Now, when someone feels ill, he calls the doctor, but in the future, your patch will signal early on that something is wrong.
Imec hopes to develop an ecological and disposable patch, costing five dollars or less, within five years; for diagnostic as well as for screening purposes. "If your family doctor can make a first screening using the patches, fewer patients will needlessly be transferred to a specialist."
Helmets for diagnosis on the spot
The Van Hoof team is also working on predictive brain tests. Will you get an attack of epilepsy? Today, Imec is working on helmets that can perform neurological examination. A sportsman who injures his head, can be examined at the location of the accident using the helmet.
Imec is strongly committed to miniaturization, eventually the functions will be brought together in an earpiece, a small headphone, or in a pair of glasses. "It can even be fashionable," says Van Hoof. "You will be able to measure your blood pressure, using optical sensors and contacts. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is also possible – your glasses as a heart specialist."
Self-learning and personalized
In the future, the wearables will also be self-learning, because every person is different. Stress, for example, manifests itself in different people in different ways. Imec is performing a test project with 1,500 people to learn more about stress reactions. Imec collaborates with behavioral scientists, psychiatrists and psychologists.
Implants to continuously monitor your health
In the longer term, it will even be possible to measure health parameters wireless. Via optical, electrical and radar technologies, heart rate variability and respiration rate can be monitored. At the Tokyo airport, infrared cameras are already able to register whether you have a fever.
Furthermore, wearables might become unnecessary, as all measurements will be done with electronics that are implanted in the body. Today this happens only for chronic diseases, but according to Van Hoof, there is a bright future for implants charging overnight in bed.