Batman and James Bond, move over! Real-life guys have access to
some pretty incredible gadgets and gizmos of their own, with medical devices
being among the hottest of these "smart" products to hit the
Recent inventions run the gamut from whimsical and wacky to
wise and wondrous. There are exercise and fitness trackers to monitor your
daily steps and calculate calories burned. Some download the information onto
special web sites that tabulate and calculate and offer advice. There are heart
rate monitors, and blood pressure monitors, and fitness planners that show you
the path to better health and nutrition. There are watch-size water monitors
that keep track of how much water you drink and micro massagers that alleviate
eyestrain with magnets and acupressure.
"Help me ... help you. Help me, help you."
That famous line from the film Jerry Maguire may be the best advice a
doctor could give his or her patient.
"Some patients have the attitude, 'I'm putting myself in the hands of a
professional,'" says Stephen Permut, MD, chairman of family and community
medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "They want
you to make all their decisions for them."
Permut prefers to have patients get involved in their own care and engage
People with diabetes can even wear a GlucoWatch, a wrist-worn
device that helps them keep tabs on blood sugar levels, supplementing but not
replacing -- yet -- the accursed fingerstick method of monitoring glucose.
Among the more helpful products are devices that remind
patients to take their medication. This is especially important for patients
with complicated regimens (like multidrug therapy for AIDS) and for those with
memory problems. Some are simple, sounding a tone when it is time to take a
Others, like one being developed at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins
University, are more complex. The Disease Management Assistance System (DMAS),
as it is called, has voice recordings that instruct a patient on what drug to
take, what side effects to expect, and what to do about them should they
If the patient doesn't press a button signaling he has taken
the drug when scheduled, the device continues to beep periodically. Even
better, a physician can download this information to find out how well a
patient is complying.
And no more need for Mom to nag you about brushing your teeth
-- a new high-tech toothbrush will beep you when it's time to clean the pearly
whites, and will make sure you do it the proper length of time.
"Studies show that people dramatically overestimate the
amount of brushing time," orthodontist Douglas Ramsay, DMD tells WebMD. Two
minutes is optimum, he says.
To help you keep you to that timetable, a new kind of
toothbrush will emit a tone every 30 seconds, which alerts the brusher it's
time to move on to another quadrant of his mouth.
"That way, it gets you to brush for a full two minutes and
distributes brushing time throughout all the teeth," Ramsay adds.
"These microelectronics are built into the toothbrush, so
they give people feedback about their use in order for them to regulate their
own behavior," says Ramsay, an associate professor at the University of
Washington School of Dentistry. It works, he says, because the features are
built in to the toothbrush and don't add extra steps for you to remember.