By: Waqaar Khawar

Recently, I wrote about self-tracking, but when I learned about Scanadu’s plans for 2013, I was blown away. They have developed three devices that are more reminiscent of Star Trek’s medical tricorder than anything on the market today. All of them are designed to communicate with your iPhone or Android phone.

If Scanadu delivers on their claims, these devices are game changers.

SCOUT is a tiny device that can record and analyze data about your pulse transit time, heart rate, electrical activity of the heart, oxygen saturation and temperature in less than 10 seconds. All you have to do is hold it up to your temple. You can then see the results as well as store and track the data. For this device straight out of the future, you will only pay about $150.

ScanaFlo is a disposable piece of plastic that you pee on just like a pregnancy test, but it tells you a lot more than whether or not you’re pregnant. An area changes color depending on how various chemicals react to your urine much like a litmus test. Use the camera on your phone to analyze the results and you have information about “pregnancy complications, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, kidney failure and urinary tract infections.”

ScanaFlu is used in essentially the same way, but instead of peeing, you spit on it. Results after analysis with your camera phone include “early detection for Strep A, Influenza A, Influenza B, Adenovirus and RSV.”

Scanadu hopes to have all three of these available to the public by the end of 2013.

It’s easy to see how these devices would help patients. Results could send patients to their doctors earlier which would lead to earlier initiation of treatment. Data collected over time would help their doctors in diagnosis and treatment. Anonymous aggregation of the data could be used to track and slow the spread of infections through communities.

On the other hand, there are some questions that need to be answered. Can untrained patients reliably use the equipment properly? How accurate and precise are the tests?

On Scanadu’s website, there is a trailer that shows their vision. The video shows a few different scenarios of the patients using potential Scanadu products. The first shows a child with a rash that is visually scanned by a device synced to a phone. The phone reassures the patient that it’s just Roseola and a doctor’s visit is unnecessary, but what if the scan is incorrect? What if an important doctor’s visit is skipped? What if the patient suffers as a result?

Another example shows local data can be used to inform a parent of a whooping cough outbreak and suggesting an appointment for her daughter for a DTaP booster. Yet another shows parents using Scanadu devices to diagnose a urinary tract infection. It informs a local urgent care center they are on the way and gives the parents directions.

The potential for Scanadu devices is certainly exciting and revolutionary. The patient will have far more in his/her toolkit than a thermometer, but we need more information before we can trust it. I look forward to seeing how Scanadu addresses these concerns.

Because the release date is a year away, I give Scanadu the benefit of the doubt for now. They have time to answer the concerns, so I’ll leave you with this question: How do you think Scanadu’s devices will change healthcare?

Sources: Gizmodo, Scanadu