Until very recently, a caregiving parent possessed few at home health tools beyond a simple thermometer. Then, as the internet developed, so too did online healthcare sites such as WebMD, offering another very powerful tool — information. At home health tools continue to rapidly undergo massive changes, and now it’s AI leading the way. Today a parent can look inside their child’s ear and receive help treating an ear infection, or an elderly person can conduct their own hearing test without ever leaving the house, and often, with intelligent machines operating behind the scenes. Increasingly smart at home health devices are evolving through the rapid proliferation of AI and the increased embrace of digital medicine. These new tools include devices like smart stethoscopes that automatically detect heartbeat abnormalities or AI powered otoscopes that can look in a person’s ear and detect an infection.
Imagine a world where at home AI healthcare tools get smarter and more able to heal you every day. These tools are incredibly data driven — where they are continuously collecting data off your body, about your environment, your nutrition and activity — and then these algorithms are continuously learning from this data
not just from you, but from millions of other patients and doctors who know how to make sense of this information.
These AI tools will then deliver personalized healthcare tips and remediation throughout your whole life. Perhaps one day without you having to set foot in a brick and mortar hospital.
AI can help wherever the care provider is identifying patterns, for example whenever a physician identifies the acoustic pattern of a heart murmur, the visual pattern of an ear infection image, or the contours and shapes of a carcinogenic skin lesion.
What if AI could help you or a doctor predict a deteriorating heart condition? “If you can go to the hospital and say, ‘I’m about to have a heart attack,’ and you have proof from an FDA-approved product, it is less costly to treat you,” said author and ABI Principal Analyst Pierce Owen (1). Other at home healthcare tools are becoming smarter everyday with tools such as EEG Headbands that can monitor your workout and vitals, Smart Beds and devices such as EarlySense that detect movement in your sleep and give you detailed data driven reports on a variety of vitals and how much sleep-and deep sleep-you are actually getting or smart baby monitors that allow parents to monitor newborn vitals. (2)(3)(4)
One significant way AI at-home healthcare is taking off is by helping parents with young children.
Parents can never get answers quickly enough when something is wrong with their child. So what if they never even had to drive to the doctors office?
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 5 out of 6 children experience ear infections by the time they are 3 years old. That’s nearly 30 million trips to the doctor’s office a year just for ear infections in the U.S. alone. Additionally, ear infections cost the US Health System 3 billion per year.
This is where companies like Cellscope step in. A pioneer in the otoscope industry, Cellscope has had success launching it’s otoscope, Oto Home. Oto Home is a small smartphone peripheral device that slides onto the users iPhone accompanied by an app. Once inside the child’s or patient’s ear the app's software recognition feature called the Eardrum Finder begins to direct the user to move and tilt the scope to capture the visuals a physician will need to attempt a diagnosis. After the session, the user enters some basic information about the patient and both the recording and the information is sent to a remote physician who reviews the data and if necessary can prescribe medication.(5) This same image used by the remote physician, can, be used by an artificial intelligence system to assist the physician with a diagnosis. The use of the AI system can decrease the costs of more expensive tests, in addition to identifying more refined possible diagnoses.
AI in healthcare can now also detect heartbeat abnormalities that the human ear cannot always initially detect. Steth IO captures exactly the premise of what the company’s goal is: “see what you cannot hear”. One study found that doctor’s across three countries could only detect abnormal heart sounds about 20% of the time.(6)
By using thousands of various heartbeat sounds, our Xyonix data scientists trained the Steth IO AI tool to “learn” how to tell which sounds are out of the norm. After the system takes in the encrypted and anonymized heartbeat recordings, it sends back a classification like “normal” or “murmur” to help assist the physician in their diagnosis.
Since patients can see and hear their heart and lung sounds, patient engagement is also a bonus for physicians. Steth IO also differentiates itself from other emerging AI healthcare tools by integrating the bell of the stethoscope directly into the iPhone so there is no need for Bluetooth or pairing and it displays all results in real time (8).
While this is currently only operated by physicians, as the at home healthcare space rapidly grows, we expect to see similar heartbeat abnormality detection abilities tailored for at home use so that you can check the health of you and your loved ones.
Virtual AI driven health care systems are also quickly making their way into people’s homes. Take for example HealthTap, which brings quality medical service to people around the world who lack the ability to pay. How it works: patients receive a free consultation via video, voice, or text. Then,
“Dr. A.I.”, their new artificial intelligence powered “physician”, converses with the patient to identify key issues and worries the patients is having. Dr. A.I then uses general information about the patient and applies deep learning algorithms to assess their symptoms and apply clinical expertise
that attempts to direct the user to an appropriate type and scale of care. (9)
Dr. AI isn't the only new AI that can give you healthcare advice from the comfort of your home. CareAngel launched its AI virtual nurse assistant, Angel. Their goal is to reduce hospital readmissions by continuously giving medical advice and reminders between discharges and doctors visit. Healthcare providers can also use angel to check in on patients, support medication adherence and check their patient’s vitals. (10) Ultimately this AI technology strives to significantly reduce the administrative and operational costs of nurse and call center outreach.
In a world where healthcare is meeting resistance from rising costs, we can see that the emergence of innovations in AI and digital health is expected to redefine how people seek care and how physicians operate. The goals and visions of most emerging health companies currently are simple:
allow new suppliers and providers into the healthcare ecosystem, empower the patient and provider using real-time data and connection and take on lowering general and long-term healthcare costs.
While healthcare has always been patient centered, AI is taking patients from a world with episodic in clinic interactions to more regular, on demand and in home care provider / patient interaction.