While the world has been closely watching the evolution of watches, glasses and other wearables as they become connected devices capturing and monitoring our lives, a little start-up in Melbourne, Australia has been focusing on the digital needs of parents.
Clinicloud are preparing to launch their packaged digital thermometer and stethoscope that may attract a whole new market for whom smartwatches and Google Glass never appealed. If these devices are as simple to use and connect to parents' phones and apps as easily as the founders describe, then every home with children will want them.
The Clinicloud team has emerged out of Microsoft's Imagine Cup Competition. This was where I first saw the team and was impressed by their understanding of the benefits and potential of personalized health. They were advocating for not just digital tools, but a model where individuals and families could take more responsibility for monitoring their own health. In the Imagine Cup instance the product, a digital stethoscope, was designed to support the treatment of disease in third world countries. In their soon to be launched products it is about helping to manage parental concerns, while providing more information to treating doctors when families do turn up to emergency wards of their local doctors.
The founders also come with credibility. Dr Andrew Lin and Dr Hon Weng Chong are both medical school graduates, who have continued to ply their trade as a way of part-funding their digital health start-up. It is in the emergency wards of rural Australian hospitals where the need and potential value of their products has become more obvious, in their eyes.
When we met, Hon recounted to me a story of parents arriving at hospital with a child who they obviously have been worried about and describing a temperature or unusual breathing, but by the time he sees the child they appear quite well and there are no obvious symptoms. He describes how Cliniclound will capture and store each reading, even the stethoscope storing an audio file of the sound from the lungs. This means when a parent arrives in emergency they have a body of evidence to share with the doctor who can make a better diagnosis with a temperature and other health data tracked over a period of time. This makes for parents feeling like they receive a better diagnosis and attention to their concerns, but he also says as a doctor it gives you greater assurances that you are seeing data that allows for a comprehensive assessment. Otherwise, a doctor is just dealing with the patient as they are in front of them, and can only rely on parents descriptions.
The Clinicloud pack includes a wireless thermometer and digital stethoscope that connects you your phone via a cable. It comes in a sleek bag that you could imagine seeing spill out of a mum's handbag. As with all technology, the devices are not completely new, but they are being offered in a new way to a consumer audience and as with most new tech the key to the offering is the app.
The app that allows you to capture your data maintains your health data over time. It offers simple graphical representation for the home user, it also meets the needs of health professionals with the right information presented in a clear and diagnostic form.
While the founders don't talk about it, you can see how these types of devices align with the large number of fitness trackers and apps out in the market place. And, while that may be true, the founders appear to be keen to pitch the product as a piece of mind tool for young families. This makes sense to any parent who has spent nights calling health lines or waiting hours in emergency with a sick child. The health of our kids matters more than anything else.
In the short time I had with the founders, I had a reasonable play with the beta devices. They were simple and easy to use -- requiring one button to instigate a reading. There is obviously some skill in positioning the thermometer the right distance from the forehead to get an accurate reading, and the stethoscope isn't wireless which is due to the need to be able to record sound. But, I can see the benefit of this for use on a sleeping baby or a distressed child. As a dad who currently uses one of those digital ear thermometer's not having to worry about disturbing my child by placing it in their ear and also avoiding the outlay for the plastic covers on my Braun device would make the $149 price tag ($109 during their pre-order campaign) on this device worthwhile.
What is different about this product is that is it designed and tested and ready for manufacture. In the world of Kickstarter so often we are paying for an idea and concept that still needs to go through the product development cycle. Clinicloud is past that stage, much to the bemusement of investors who the team have spoken to, who are more used to a slide deck than having the whole product demonstrated in front of them. But, that is the care and detail that these two young Australian doctors appear to take to what that do -- whether treating patients or designing innovative digital health tools.
Clinicloud is part of the new wave of personalized health tools that are empowering us to take better care of ourselves and our children. We are learning to be partners with our health professionals and work together to improve our health and wellbeing.
Note: This writer has no association or financial connection to Clinicloud.