I’ll admit it: I’m a James Bond fan. And one of the things I love most is the obligatory scene in every film where Q does a run-down of all the gadgets with which Bond will be outfitted—including the upgrades to his always-impressive car.
Despite having been penned more than 50 years ago, Ian Fleming knew that seamless and intuitive technology would forever change the game. And he was right. As we become increasingly connected, we expect constant access to whatever information we want, whenever we want it, and our cars are no exception. In fact, with innovative in-car systems, they are becoming increasingly more Bond-like. For instance, when I’m driving home, I can ask a virtual personal assistant to look up movie times and buy tickets, and then send a text to let my friends know where and when to meet. With a simple command, I can check my email, and access my music library so I can listen to whatever I want. So why does it have to stop there? Why can’t this accessibility apply to my personal health information, as well?
The intersection of health IT and the connected car
In James Bond movies, the Q Branch of MI6 is always coming up with new ways to connect things, such as James’ watch, with other devices and objects, including his car. Because I work in healthcare technology, my question for these types of visions is always the same: how can we make this a reality?
Connected health devices could radically change how we think about the care continuum, from triaging to daily health management. In Casino Royale, Bond, who is going into cardiac arrest, stumbles to his car, runs a diagnostic test that senses he is in distress, and immediately connects him to an MI6 physician who walks him through his condition and tells him to use a defibrillator (which is conveniently located in the glove compartment). Needless to say, the quick response and real-time assistance saves his life, and he goes on to win the poker game and get the girl (albeit only briefly).
From a personal health standpoint, connecting wearables or fitness trackers to your car through smart integrations that do not compromise safety while behind the wheel could yield incredible results. For instance, a diabetic could wear a watch with a sensor that can detect low blood sugar and sync with an intelligent agent in the car that routes him to a nearby restaurant or fruit stand. Or a virtual personal assistant could pull data from a driver’s smart watch and, noticing she is behind in her daily step count, suggest a parking lot located further away from the destination, and even check the weather to make sure her walk is rain-free.
The same level of connectivity could hold true for a physician traveling between facilities. Being able to receive secure text-to-speech (TTS) notifications about a patient who has an elevated potassium levels, and the ability to call or text him simply by giving a verbal command would help physicians address concerns before they become critical issues. And, with the help of a virtual personal assistant, that physician could request a medication order and a follow-up appointment, if needed. All of these interactions, of course, could be logged into the patient’s electronic health record using secure speech-to-text and clinical language understanding and would be immediately available for the next treating clinician, and the structured data fields properly populated for appropriate reimbursement.
Although it seems far-fetched, what is truly remarkable is that independently, these technologies already exist in different form factors— it is up to us to break down the silos, challenge the status quo, find inspiration in the everyday and come up with new use cases. The ability to have immediate access to health data and advice would not only help consumers make more informed health decisions, it has the potential to unlock better population health outcomes. We have entered the age of the connected car, and this may be the very thing that shifts us into high gear and helps drive us toward a healthier future.