The Doctor Is In... Your Bathroom

Wireless technology and networking appear to be ushering in the return of the house call. But sometimes, medicine and technology make strange bedfellows.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 24, 2015

The doctor will see you now—inside your own bathroom.

That's the concept behind a proposed product from design consultancy Teague. The idea is for a "doctor-in-a-box" service that consumers could pick up at their local drugstore and set up using their Wi-Fi service at home. The kit, which Teague dreamed up in response to a call for innovative ideas from Fast Company magazine, would consist of just two components.

Here's how the magazine's Co.Design blog puts it: "One piece is like a smart stethoscope, capable of hearing your heart or lungs, but also peeking into your ear with a fiber optic light and taking high-definition images on the surface of your skin. The second piece is a teleconferencing camera that sticks to your mirror."

The camera would have motion-tracking capabilities similar to that of Microsoft's Kinect, and the kit would also be able to collect heart rate and temperature readings (the blog does not describe exactly how).

I asked Kenneth Kleinberg, who tracks the health-care industry for research, technology and consulting firm The Advisory Board Co., whether he thinks such a service will make its way into reality within the next five to 10 years. After all, telemedicine devices—such as an advanced stethoscope that has wireless capability allowing a doctor to hear a patient's heartbeat remotely—are already being tested and used in clinical settings. In fact, Thinklabs' Bluetooth-enabled digital stethoscope has been used to treat Ebola patients, since its ear-bud headphones can be worn under a protective suit, while conventional stethoscopes would not work ergonomically.)

Likewise, health-care providers are working on products that employ motion-tracking technology similar to that of the Kinect. Putting it all together in a bathroom mirror would be a novel approach (if not claustrophobia-inducing for those with small powder rooms).

Kleinberg notes that there would be regulatory hurdles that a home health-care provider would need to clear in order to make Teague's imagined doctor-in-a-box product a reality. However, he adds, none of that would be a deal-breaker.

That just leaves one question: Would patients and doctors use this? If the patient suspects she has a contagious illness, this type of telemedicine could go a long way toward keeping her and her germs outside of waiting rooms. Co.Design notes that it could also be very handy to use while traveling abroad, far from your own doctor and, perhaps, anyone who speaks your language.

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