Dementia has become a phenomenon in recent decades. Just in America 5.8 million people is suffering this disease, costing the healthcare system and patients’ families about $305 billion per year. One in 10 Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, deaths from which have increased 146 percent since 2000—it’s now the sixth leading cause of mortality in the US. Currently, there are no cures available for dementia, and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly reluctant to invest because so many trials have failed.
But thanks to the advanced technologies, there is a new way to detect dementia in early-stage or even people who have a tendency towards dementia. In an experiment conducted in 2018, 113 people between the ages of 60 and 75 years old were using several smart devices including iPhone, Apple Watch, Ipad, Beddit sleep monitoring… in order to collect personal health data such as heart rate, sleep quality, steps as well as various behaviours. Then the researchers used machine learning on the dataset to develop a model to distinguish which people had cognitive impairment and which were healthy. The result was really prompt, it’s able to distinguish between healthy individuals in that dataset, those who had mild cognitive impairment, and those with mild Alzheimer’s disease, with an accuracy similar to that of computerized cognitive tests administered in clinical settings. Other researchers have tried different data collected method like brain health monitoring platform, game-like tasks or self-report.
Fortunately for the research community, members of the public are keen to monitor their health, as evidenced by the more than 300,000 health-related apps and 340 wearable devices already available as of 2017, according to a report by health-focused data science company IQVIA. But this integration of technology into health care also has some barriers, and the most obvious one is personal privacy. Amid a world where data become commercial, we need to have strict regulations for protecting personal data. Another concern is how to provide access to the technologies required to do the monitoring: devices such as iPhones and Apple Watches aren’t cheap and may be challenging to use for some people.
As an Exhibition organizer for the healthcare industry, we are enthusiastic about the potential of digital technology, especially in developing countries where advanced technology could play a vital role to bridge the gap with other countries.