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Ford developing health-monitoring technology for cars

May 19, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Ford is developing ways to bring health technology, such as allergy smart phone apps, to new cars.
Ford is developing ways to bring health technology, such as allergy smart… (Ford )

Smart phones have already supplemented the doctor’s office and personal computers as sources of health advice — and now it appears car companies are driving into the on-the-go consumer health market.

Ford is developing a way to display pollen counts and other allergen levels to drivers using its existing link to smart phone apps, the car company announced Wednesday. Ford has also made a prototype to synchronize glucose monitoring devices via Bluetooth. The car displays glucose levels and sounds an alert if they fall too low.

A statement from Ford explains how this technology can help diabetics and allergy sufferers:

“For people with diabetes and their caregivers, constant knowledge and control of glucose levels is critical to avoiding hypoglycemia or low glucose, which can cause confusion, lightheadedness, blurry vision and a host of other symptoms that could be dangerous while driving. Many now depend on a portable continuous glucose monitoring device to track their levels.

"Likewise, those with asthma and allergies need to have a clear understanding of their environment and potential symptom triggers — such as pollen levels in the air — that can quickly lead to an attack.”

The company says it's meeting a consumer demand for on-the-go health info.

But whether such technologies are addressing a large safety need (rather than, in some cases, an information junkie need) is less clear. Very few — between 0.4% and 3% — of deadly accidents are caused by some medical condition, estimates a 2006 review article in Diabetes Care on driving. Epilepsy is the most common cause, followed by insulin-treated diabetes.

The vast majority of traffic accidents — about 95%, according to the article — are caused by environmental or vehicle conditions or by human error.

But the car-information possibilities are real — and offer a potential new way to spend time in traffic. Users will just have to resist the ever-greater temptation to look away from the road.

healthkey@tribune.com

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