Doctor Bathroom Will See You Now

One room of the average home is receiving significant attention in terms of the potential for technology to make a significant difference. The bathroom is frequently visited by all of us and is actually an ideal analysis suite for assessing the health of an individual.

When asking a neurologist about the most important sign of normal neurological health, he/she will tell you that it is the way in which the patient walks into the examining room and sits up on the bed or down on a chair. This straightforward maneuver  says a great deal about a person’s balance, muscle mass, coordination, nerve function, vision and more. If there is nothing detectably wrong with a person’s gait and general movement, then there is a good chance that the person is generally healthy.

As a person enters a bathroom, sensors can detect whether the individual is standing straight, is walking in a balanced fashion, is bumping into random objects, is distributing his or her weight evenly on the floor, and then has the necessary body strength to properly use the toilet. By analyzing both urine and “the other stuff”, the smart toilet bowl can detect a whole slew of diseases from renal failure to bowel cancer. Later on, when the individual is washing their hands, the smart bathroom could note if there is a change in the temperature of the water over time. This could be an indication of a change in sensitivity of the fingers and hands, as a sign of diseased nerves in the lower arms.

The mirror can truly be a look into one’s inner health. Eye movements, facial muscular status, movements of the lips while brushing the teeth, color of the teeth and the general look of the tongue are a variety of signs that could be checked by the smart mirror to rule out a long list of diseases.

It is actually interesting to note that almost all of the tests that I have listed above used to be part of the extensive physical exam that a qualified physician would do, on the average patient. All of the subtle signs that could indicate disease were searched for, and if identified, led to an immediate diagnosis or further testing. It is ironic that our bathrooms will eventually become the equivalent in capability to classic and solid old-school medicine.

Besides the bowl itself being sensitive to a variety of markers, the tissue paper that we will use will also be smart. It’ll have the ability to identify a much wider range of diseases without the test material first being diluted by the water in the toilet bowl. This will make it much easier to identify even the smallest amounts of problematic markers.

The shower stall will be an opportunity for technology to assess our skin and to rule out the first signs of skin cancer, especially in hard to see areas. Going to a dermatologist and stripping down is embarrassing for many people. But while one is singing their favorite show tunes in the shower, they will not even be cognizant of the WebCam that is viewing and reviewing the entire surface of their skin. It is even possible that our shampoo will be smart. Nanoparticles in this shampoo will be sensitive to changes in oiliness and acidity of our hair and skin. These changes can also be indicators of a change in health.

All of these smart devices will need to be wirelessly connected to a central medical hub. Whether the hub is in the house and does some initial analysis before sending the data off to the cloud, or if the hub is itself in the cloud and receives all of the data directly, is a technical issue and truly will not matter to the individual. The key is that the tremendous amount of data that will be collected every time you use the washroom will become part of your entire health profile which will be continuously analyzed by dedicated medical software, that will most likely be sitting in the cloud. In the event that a problem is identified, the patient and most likely his or her doctor will be contacted immediately.

From the person’s point of view, using the bathroom will truly be no different than it is today. All of the technology that I have spoken of will be hidden in the various devices and tools that regularly occupy a person’s washroom. A toothbrush may very well identify changes in a person saliva and pick up on early diabetes before there are even signs in the blood. But from the person’s point of view, the toothbrush will feel and act just like toothbrushes of today. This actually will be one of the ways in which technology will become second nature in our lives. Quite frankly, It will be so well hidden and so discreet that we will not be able to detect it even on close inspection. The only thing we will feel is an added level of oversight which will manifest as improved preventative medical care. For all of those who are worried about the incursion into our privacy, most will still agree that the benefits clearly outweigh the negatives.

Thanks for listening.

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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