Health monitoring tools needed for the elderly

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Christian Wilson
Christian Wilson
In late 2012, Scanadu showcased their first product, the Scout. So, what is this “Scout” and why might it be a great monitoring tool for the elderly?   

The Scout, simply put, is a scanning device. Scanadu explains small device, resembling — but smaller than — a hockey puck. It is designed to be pressed against the skin, such as on the forehead or wrist.  Within a matter of seconds the device “scans” your resident's vital signs and displays the information on a smartphone (or similar device).  

Scanadu claims that the device will give caregivers a readout of their patient's heart rate, body temperature, blood oxygen levels (pulse oxymetry), respiration, blood pressure and electrocardiography (ECG/EKG). 

Scanadu, was developed in early 2011 by Belgian entrepreneur Walter De Brouwer. The Scout, which is being universally compared to the medical tricorder of Star Trek fame, is currently deep in development. On May 22, Scanadu launched a crowdfunding campaign on the popular crowdfunding website, Indiegogo, where in less than a day — less than 2 hours, in fact — they reached their primary funding goal of $100,000.  This funding campaign was launched to both bring attention and to presell the device.  According the Indiegogo campaign page, the Scout is set for a March 2014 launch.


While it's still early to make any real judgment calls on the device, it certainly shows a lot of promise. The device is designed with near complete noninvasiveness in mind. Contact with the patient's skin is required, but that's it.  No pinching, no straps, cuffs, needles, or anything else.  Plus, since it is supposed to deliver quick results (within 10 seconds) that are automatically recorded, users and caregivers can share this information instantly with the appropriate medical personnel.


There is one possible downside to the Scanadu Scout. The Scout works by scanning the patient, then relaying the results of the scan to a smartphone (with iPhone and Android devices being cited as the first supported devices). The recorded information is supposed to be easy to read and understand. That said, not everyone has a smartphone, and it's unclear whether the Scout work with with other devices, such as tablets or laptops. If the Scout isn't as user-friendly as many people hope it will be, it'll probably be more attractive to long-term caregivers than it will be to the elderly themselves.


This isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, if the Scout is half of what Scanadu claims it will be, it's going to be an excellent tool for professional or long-term caregivers. It is small, affordable and portable. Caregivers working in hospitals or assisted living facilities will be able to track day to day trends and changes in the condition of their residents. This, in turn, will allow them to detect potential health problems much earlier on, which could save lives. 


At this point in time, however, it safe to say that there are more questions than answers when it comes to the Scanadu Scout.  It should be interesting to see how the Scout gets used. Whatever the final product ends up looking like, the development of the Scout is definitely something worth keeping an eye on.


Christian Wilson currently works in the home care industry in San Diego. He writes about issues facing the elderly and spends a lot of his work day answering questions regarding home care.




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