It’s not easy to keep up with the latest in health and wellness. Each day, new studies, research and developments in health make it difficult to pick out the most important information for you.
We’ll be sharing a few of the latest developments in health at the end of each episode of “Take Care” this year. As the year goes on, we may even revisit some earlier news to see where things stand months later.
Today we’re covering a couple of interesting ways that health is intersecting technology and the first is quite a breakthrough.
Tech that allows the blind to see
eSight Eyewear has made a pledge to end blindness by 2020. Their eyewear is a hands-free, wearable solution to blindness. It enables the legally blind to see.
“Some of the moments we’ve seen are just absolutely breathtaking,” says Jeff Fenton, eSight’s director of outreach and communication.
“We’ve had a mother see her newborn baby for the first time, a gentleman propose to and see his wife say ‘Yes’ on live television … Some of the moments are just bizarre, in a great way. We’ve had someone zip line, someone skate through Central Park, a legally-blind wearer go bungee jumping,” he continues.
It’s not all extreme sports, though. Jeff says the simple moments are often the most profound, like when someone gets to rejoin the workforce, go back to school or just relate more intimately to their friends and families.
The technology optimizes magnification, contrast and clarity to produce a picture for the user, that shows what’s right in front of them. It’s similar to the technology found in virtual reality, but with a few key differences.
“We built a platform to help those who are visually impaired and we purpose-built it for sight or vision restoration, which means you can’t have issues of imbalance or nausea if you’re to see the way the sighted can. So we actually designed the hardware around that constraint, which means when you use eSight you don’t experience issues of imbalance or nausea or claustrophobia. And the reason for that is because we built it to allow the legally blind to access their peripheral vision,” Jeff says.
eSight Eyewear allows the user to look into the screens to have their central vision enhanced, but also use their peripheral vision for mobility.
They have more ideas for the future as well, mostly to improve on the technology and make eSight Eyewear available to more people.
A membership fee for your primary care
Next we head to the west coast, where one company is combining technology with primary care to provide a different kind of health care. Forward is currently operating in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They’re essentially a primary care provider -- your regular family doctor -- with a few differences.
First, you pay monthly.
“Right now our model is that the patients pay us directly and they pay a monthly membership fee,” says Dr. Daniella Perlroth, she’s a doctor and medical advisor for Forward.
Perlroth says most of their patients forego insurance and choose to pay monthly instead. Many patients supplement with a health savings account or switch to a high-deductible/low-premium plan.
In short, $149 a month gets you access to your primary care team as well as screening to determine your risk for diseases, including genetic analysis and data about your body. On their website, Forward boasts low wait times and more access to your doctor.
There’s a big focus on speed, tech and data at the company. They can send you home with monitors or wearables, collect data over a period of time and then synthesis it with you on your next visit. And all of that info makes its way into an app that both you and your care team have access to. The engineers working to collect this data and relay it are some of the best, according to Perlroth.
“One of our key innovations now, but also really the potential for in the future, is around how we intake instrument structure our data and all of the information that’s coming to us about a person’s health. And then how that allows us to be smarter … to predict conditions early that they might want to know about or to help physicians make the right diagnosis or to determine which treatment might be best or somebody.”
It sounds like a lot of information. So we asked Perlroth if incidental findings are ever an issue. Are there ever times when maybe the full work-up goes too far or do their patients prefer to know every single detail when it comes to their health?
“We find that actually more information and giving them more data about their health is super appreciated and beneficial,” she says. “And then we just supplement that by really explaining what it means.”
Perlroth says that Forward is HIPAA-compliant, that's the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and that security is at the core of what they do.
Tune in for more health headlines on the next installment of "Take Care."