Right after he started at Butterfly iQ, the company’s chief medical officer, John Martin, felt a thickness in his throat. Since Butterfly iQ makes pocket-sized ultrasound devices that connect to an iPhone, Martin idly connected one and ran the small wand over his throat. He noticed a dark lump that wasn’t supposed to be there and headed for the hospital. It turns out that Martin had found an early stage cancer. If he’d ignored that thickness, or even just waited for his physical to bring it up, he might have been facing a much more dire diagnosis.
Martin is an early winner of a quiet revolution unfolding in medicine — one where instead of a check-up to track your health once every six months, devices in your pocket, on your wrist, and all around your house collect data about your health and track trends to alert you and your doctor to potential medical problems before they become serious. Your grandmother probably told you an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? Well now technology is starting to offer more and more prevention.
The flaw in our current medical system is that it’s a snapshot in time, but your health is an ever-sprawling roll of data. The food you eat, the steps you take, and the things you do all add up, over time, to a much more detailed picture of your overall wellness. That’s especially important because as medicine progresses, it’s become clear that every human being is unique. Medicine is, more and more, personalized, but to achieve that, doctors need the data to figure out who you are, medically. That’s where technology comes in.
At its root, the tech-health revolution is all about small sensors worked into your everyday life. You may already be using some early examples of this. Your watch tracks your heart rate, your phone follows your steps, a smart scale keeps tabs on your weight, and apps help you stay on top of what you eat and its nutritional value. Sleep sensors are becoming more commonplace as people track their rest. Your gym may have tools to help you keep your exercise habits organized. And it’s more powerful than you might think; fitness trackers can spot pregnancy before even the mother knows about it or offer insight into the state of your mental health. The Apple Watch is already such a wealth of data, that the brand is using it to launch an enormous heart study.