Roy Exum: Now, A 10-Second Clinic

Saturday, June 22, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There was one day, a week or two ago, when my medical friends stuck me with needles 10 different times in an 8-hour span to either draw something out or squirt something in. So as I continue to “rest” before I resume my stride, I was quick to notice a story in my morning reading that held the promise of “changing medicine forever.”

Quite frankly, I was a bit skeptical after I got all hyped up over the announcement of “the greatest invention of all time”  and it turned out to be that two-wheeled scooter contraption that you know as a Segway. Please – the inventor accidentally drove one off a cliff to his demise! But as one who hasn’t felt so good lately, I believe that a guy named Walter De Brouwer and his new gadget called “Scanadu” might indeed be the next big revolutionary miracle.

The little thing is a two-inch round disc, not an inch high, that you pinch with two fingers and hold the sensor to your temple for 10 seconds. Then you need only look on your Smartphone and – get this – it gives you your temperature, respiratory rate (heart beat), oximetry (amount of oxygen in the blood), ECG (electrocardiogram), both diastolic and systolic blood pressure and your stress level. Your Smartphone can then analyze, track and trend your vital signs.

Any medical professional will tell you such a device is incredible and, when you next visit your doctor, you’ll have a history to present like never before. Better yet, if you go to the website you can make reservations to buy one of the first ones for $199. And it works on anybody – your kids, your friends, your first date with a stranger, whatever. (Delivery is March, 2014.)

The great story behind how the marvel happened is that De Brouwer, after being born a genius in France, earned his PhD. in semiotics and did well, doing everything from brain research to a punk magazine. But when one of his children was 7, the child thought he could fly out of a second-story window and, of course, a horrible tragedy occurred. The child landed on his head and months in hospitals followed.

“You think you are smart, and then you realize you are not a medical doctor, and you understand nothing,” De Brouwer’s pretty wife, Sam, told USA Today. As his business partner in addition to being the mother of three, Sam and her husband were stunned. “It was a traumatic experience that left us thinking it would be great to create a tool that allows patients and doctors to communicate better,” she explained.

DeBrouwer remembered the 1960s TV show Star Trek and how, in the show, a character named Dr. “Bones” McCoy would use a magical medical tricorder to fix anybody in the Starfleet who was puny. He also tapped into NASA research and the dazzling brain-trust in Silicon Valley. And already he has prototype machines being used by hundreds of friends who marvel at the results.

The Scanadu Company is already working on other incredible gadgets. Scanaflu can check one’s saliva for flu and they are working on a device that will use a nano-needle to enable Scanadu to do elementary blood work. A device called Scanaflo will use the Smartphone’s camera to read a urine test-strip and give quick results. If necessary, it will even give directions to the nearest emergency room!

As he told USA Today, “In order to make medicine appeal to consumers, you have to bring something magical to it, so they can take stock of their health before they end up in the emergency room on shock. Sooner or later, we all end up in the ER. We think it only happens to the neighbors, but we are the neighbors.”

My thinking is a little different. Can you imagine how much more efficient a hospital would be if every professional in the place had such a tool in their pocket. What about EMTs, school nurses, my goodness – it is mindboggling. Suddenly expensive and time-consuming tests can be done with a tricorder and texted to the physician’s office.

The vision is that less than a year from now Scanadu will be available to the general public. And as one who got stuck 10 times one day not long ago, I’m gonna’ sign up. Phone in the numbers – Dr. Spock’s nurse will phone back a prescription. That’s where we are headed.

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