It’s a small device you wear on your clothes or watch. It is programmed in such a way that there are a specific number of steps recommended to people of different ages as a barometer of a healthy lifestyle. And every month, you will get a report of how well you have done.
The president of a bioinformatics company based in India, Manick Rajendran, said this form of personalised medical care is the next step in medical innovation for Singaporeans.
Rajendran’s suggestion comes as the country kicks off the ActiveSG national movement, an initiative to get Singaporeans to participate in affordable sports programmes to promote an active and healthy lifestyle.
“I think it is possible in Singapore because no one else in the world uses technological devices as much as Singaporeans do. So this medical device and the report it gives at the end of the month, could allow one to take pre-emptive measures before one falls seriously ill,” he said while giving a talk on how to innovate. The talk was organised by Apple Seed.
There are currently a number of such medical devices available for mobile downloads. But these devices are usually targeted at specific lifestyle habit, not an overall assessment of one’s health.
Rajendran used to head the LifeLine Group of Hospitals in India before becoming the president of Xcode Life Sciences.
He said: “Through genetic decoding, we can find out the lifestyle habits that may put us in danger of certain diseases. This information can help us create personalised medical devices that can advise us on these risky behaviours before we become sick.
“Using the personalised medical device, it would be easy for your doctor to detect if your lifestyle becomes dangerously sedentary for instance. Your doctor will be able to advise you on proactive steps to take.”
But will there be demand in Singapore?
“I would predict that more wearable devices as such would be used by Singaporeans but it is left to the preference of the consumers how they can be used.
“For instance, the wearer could also set the perimeters that define his normal healthy lifestyle, and if they are not met, the device will notify a loved one or a doctor,” he added.
Globally, personal medical devices are catching on. The market for such devices is estimated to reach US$16.8 billion by 2019 due to the rising incidence of lifestyle diseases (obesity, diabetes, hypertension and others).
However, Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah from the Department of Medicine, National University of Singapore said: “There is no evidence that any of the markers [that mark out risky behaviours] actually work and have any impact at all on human health.”
A company in the United States, 23andMe, has attempted to predict if a person could be predisposed to certain diseases using genetic decoding, but have yet to prove their claims to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Manick said his company has had some success for the Indian market, using a report based on the genetic makeup of the customers studied from 394 SNPs and 8 metabolic factors.