How a Smart Home Could Identify a Patient with the Flu


How a Smart Thermometer and Alexa could work together…

Kinsa the Smart Thermometer

The New York Times (NYT) has run a few articles featuring the use of Kinsa, a smart thermometer start-up, and how its data can be used for public health initiatives. Their most recent article published this October hits home with how the data can be used to reach consumers with personalized advertisements regarding infection prevention, and I feel this is timely to talk about as we head into flu season and my past article on smart voice-assistants (e.g., Alexa).

So for those that don't know, Kinsa stared out in 2012 markets a line of smart thermometers. These hit the shelves back in 2014, and currently, three FDA-cleared products are available:

  • Smart Stick - Essentially an electronic thermometer that plugs into a smartphones audio jack (which unfortunately are being phased out on most modern models. Costs $15.

  • Quick Ear - Bluetooth electronic ear thermometer. Costs $40.

  • Quick Care - Bluetooth electronic thermometer (oral, rectal, underarm). Costs $20.

These devices all sync up with an app available on iOS and Android. The neat feature is that the app can keep track of data in real-time, allows it to be shared, and can have different household members profiles. I actually bought the Quick Ear a few years back and had used it off and on in the home. It is relatively easy to use, though some issues with the Bluetooth connection which may be due to an older iPhone model I was using in the past. That aside, what the NYT pieces really get into though is the data...

The Power of RealTime Data

Kinsa real powerhouse rests on data at the end of the day. Yes, a B2C market can be successful, but you can only get so much market cap with that. But, data collected in sufficient homes of user's temperatures and other demographic data... now that can sell. And that's why Kinsa Insights exists.

Kinsa partners with other companies, such as public health outlets, pharmacy companies, academia, and more to get their user collected data to the market to be used. The NYT article highlights how Clorox paid Kinsa for the data to identify what areas are being hit by flu, to better market it's cleaning supplies to potential households. I get this, after having my firstborn last year, I came down with a nasty bug, and I was washing every area I could to reduce possible contamination for fear of infecting my newborn. Getting households prepared for such inevitability makes sense, and if Clorox can increase local advertisements (e.g., discounts, coupons) to encourage purchases, I say it's a win-win for consumers and companies.

Needless to say, the benefit of digital health is data, and marketers I am sure will tap into this vast data set to get more personalized material out for consumers. After all, in an era where consumers expect a more personal approach, this may be more meaningful to tell a consumer "Your area has an XX% increase in flu activity..." versus "It's Flu season..." to get them interested in a product or service.

For those wondering if Kinsa data can predict Flu hit areas and such, feel free to read the following article:

Smart Home Future Integration?

Now, the next logical question regarding patient-targeted advertisements and digital health data collection comes back to an earlier article I wrote this month on Amazon's new patent for Alexa to pick up health cues from audio inputs. To summarize: imagine Alexa hears you start coughing and recommends cough drops to be delivered in an hour. In addition, recently Amazon announced their own line of consumer testing supplies (e.g., blood pressure cuff, SMBG devices) really extends some new possibilities.

But, let's combine this smart home model with other objective data measurements, for a theoretical situation.

*Coughing & temperature rising trend from connected thermometer overplayed with regional travel history in past week*

Alexa - I notice you've been experiencing symptoms in line with possible flu like illness for the past 24hrs. Would you like some help?

User - Yes.

Alexa - Would you like a remote consult with a doctor?

User - Yes.

Alexa - I have put in an appointment with [Insert whatever Telemedicine company Amazon partners with], and you will receive a virtual consult in 10-minutes. You may use your phone's app or [Whatever other technology comes out soon] to have the appointment.

So why this case? Well, with flu, most antiviral medications (including the new Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) approved by the FDA) are only indicated within 48-hrs of symptom onset. So, quick identification of Flu and treatment are tantamount to use. In addition, most of the flu symptoms can be treated by OTC agent and Amazon could look to get these products to the patient as quickly as possible by home early risk alerts, and using datasets from companies like Kinsa to determine the likelihood of infection. Again, this is theory crafting on my part, but one with a high possibility I feel in the near future.

I welcome your thoughts and comments!