Clever entrepreneur thinks up inventive way to truly do clinical laboratory tests at the ultimate point of care and use a smart phone application to alert the doctor
With the advent of digital technology and smartphones, medical laboratory testing is moving out of the central laboratory and into the bedside, homes and now into diapers! A new digital “Smart Diaper” invented by New York startup Pixie Scientific constantly monitor’s a baby’s health to detect urinary tract infections, kidney problems, or dehydration early, before the health issue escalates.
‘Smart Diaper’ Tweets When It Detects a Health Problem
The front of the smart diaper contains a panel of colored squares. Embedded into each square are dry reagents. These reagents are similar to the colored urine dipsticks patients commonly used in physicians’ offices, noted a story published on ABCNews.com.
In this video, Pixie Scientific explains how the Smart Diaper tracks a child’s health status. (Video copyright Pixie Scientific)
Each color on the panel of the diaper represents an interaction with proteins, water content, or bacteria, pointed out an article published by the New York Times. The colored squares change color if the chemical reaction is outside normal health parameters. The panel also has one neutral white square that makes it easier to check for color changes.
Should a color change be observed on the baby’s diaper, the parent can use a smartphone application that takes a picture of the colored patch on the wet diaper. The Smart Diaper application then makes precise readings of the chemical data. That data is transmitted and uploaded to a central location where the baby’s doctor can view it and decide if further testing is warranted, noted the New York Times report.
Pixie Scientific founder Yaroslav Faybishenko, who has a background in computer science and health technology, suggested taking a picture of the diaper patch once a day. Information about the child’s urination patterns is collected and stored in the smartphone app and is used to spot urinary tract infections, dehydration, or developing kidney problems. The app fires off an alert if something unusual is found.
Inspiration for Smart Diaper Sprang from Personal Experience
The inspiration for the Smart Diaper came to Faybishenko when he realized that his baby daughter’s wet diaper could provide information regarding her health, noted the ABCNews.com story. He and his wife, Jennie Rubinshteyn, were driving in their car when their one-year-old daughter in the back seat began crying. Rubinshteyn, who became upset when the baby continued to cry, asked her husband. “What’s in her diaper?” He responded, “Data is in her diaper. Urine is full of so much health information.”
Smart Diaper to Be Tested in Pediatric Hospitals to Secure FDA Approval
This entrepreneurial couple plans to test the Smart Diaper at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at Columbia University Medical Center. This clinical data will be used to secure FDA approval before introducing the Smart Diaper to the national market.
When cleared for sale, a disposable diaper vendor will supply the diapers. Pixie Scientific will manufacture the test panels and attach them to the diapers. Faybishenko estimated that Smart Diaper technology will bump the price of regular diapers up 30% to 40%. The diapers will be packaged along with ordinary diapers since they only need to be worn once a day, noted the ABCNews.com article.
Pediatrician Expresses Concerns about Smart Diaper
Pediatrician Ari Brown M.D., author of Expecting 411 and Baby 411, expressed his concern about this diaper in the ABCNews.com report. “I’m not sure you need this for the average kid,” he said. “I’m not confident this is a useful screen for a bladder infection because it’s not a clean specimen. Also, for highly anxious parents, I am not sure it will be reassuring. It might be alarming, in fact,” he stated.
Pixie Scientific is in the process of raising money for the project on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site. As of November 22, Smart Diaper had only raised $21,491 of its $225,000 goal.
Point-of-Care Test Technology is Being Put to Practical Uses
The Smart Diaper is just one more example showing how entrepreneurs are thinking of practical uses for point-of-care testing technology. Lately, Dark Daily has reported on a point-of-care alcohol device placed in a nightclub urinal to let patrons know when they are too drunk to drive. (See Dark Daily, “Singapore Nightclub Uses a Urinal-based Urine POCT Device to Screen Patrons’ Alcohol Levels and Discourage Drunks from Driving Themselves Home,” November 18, 2013). We also reported on an iPhone app that tests urine samples for 25 diseases on the go. (See Dark Daily, “New iPhone App Allows Consumers to Test Their Urine on the Go for as Many as 25 Different Diseases,” April 26, 2013.)
The New York Times article also reported the products from Jawbone and FitBit create digital records of calorie expenditures and sleep habits. Additionally, the Taiwanese company AiQ Smart Clothes has introduced a shirt that measures biometrics, such as heart rate.
All of these examples demonstrate how entrepreneurs are working to combine diagnostic testing technologies with existing products used daily by consumers in order to help them better manage their health. At some point, there is likely to be an opportunity for pathologists and clinical laboratory to play some type of ongoing role in helping consumers understand how to interpret and act upon the diagnostic information that is generated by the different products they buy and use.