The Rise of DIY Health Diagnostics


December 05, 2021

When cancer in a patient is suspected, the first line of investigation in most cases is to perform a biopsy, sticking a long needle into the area in question again and again, or punching through the patient’s hip bone in order to extract material for testing. In endoscopic biopsies, a tube is inserted into the body of a patient under anaesthesia, to extract material for testing. Analysis of the results takes up to several days, and cost thousands of Euros to complete. And, although these are relatively routine procedures, complications take place in as many as 30% of conventional biopsies.

The respective diagnostic procedure for cardiovascular disease isn’t much more appealing. If the patient is lucky, she’ll have a chest X-Ray, CT, MRI, echocardiogram, or ECG in the hospital. But she might require a cardiac catheter, i.e. a tube is inserted into an artery in her groin and navigated up toward her heart, in order to flush in a dye that allows X-Ray technicians to get a better look at her heart valves and arteries. This again will cost several thousand Euros.

Unfortunately, for many other common causes of death like stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, there is simply no effective means of accurate early diagnosis. But a range of new diagnostic methods is beginning to challenge these invasive, expensive, or even nonexistent methods. When they are fully developed to scale, these methods will be highly effective and highly affordable.

Enter Wearables

Most of us have a digital thermometer, a (body-fat) scale, or a blood pressure gauge at home – those of us already own some basic household diagnostic technology. You are probably familiar with so-called wearables; i.e. wearable health devices like chest strap heart monitors for jogging enthusiasts, or smartwatches, s.a. Apple Watch, or Fitbit, or the Oura ring, which monitor your heart rate, sleep quality, and other personal health metrics. There are home blood tests that monitor your cholesterol and blood glucose, and even home tests that help diagnose STDs, allergies, and food intolerances.

DIY Health Diagnostics

Numerous apps leverage your phone’s camera, gyroscope, GPS, and other sensors to provide you with real-time monitoring of relevant organism-related data. Do-It-Yourself DIY health diagnostic devices like these are becoming increasingly wearable, portable, even implantable, ingestible, and – most relevant affordable for individuals. Comparable to the development in computer hardware, the latest wearables are equipped with much more computing power than many giant medical devices in hospitals. Besides their general computiúng performance, they are also adding more and more functionality: Apple Watch now includes blood oxygen level readings and an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring function, to help detect atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder. DIY health diagnostic devices are – like small portable computers in the 1990s – on their way to replace incumbent medical technology that requires trained experts and maintenance.

A Continuous, Personalised, Realtime Data Flow

Working with data collected by DIY health diagnostic devices will prove as the ultimate way for health diagnostics, in general. As soon as the collected data are of the same or similar quality as data collected with medical technology devices in hospitals or medical offices, the health sector will experience a paradigm shift: having personalised health data at hand, real-time, allows for much better early diagnosis. 

And what‘s good for early diagnosis adds perfectly to an individual‘s personal omics, i.e. the holistic molecular, physiological, and environmental profile over time. Bridging genome and dynamic physiology, detecting diseases at an early stage, and uncovering lifestyles and environmental patterns associated with a (potential/future) disease, is the goal of the NOMIX team. Building the Collective Digital Immune System CODIS will allow for a 3P-Medicine approach that is not limited to the more prosperous parts of the population.