The are small but powerful: a tiny injectable device that monitors cardiac activity, a wireless sensor that keeps track of the pressure on the pulmonary artery and can alert patients if they need to adjust their medication, and a smart phone application that allows patients to receive non-emergency health care confidentially via phone.

These were a few of the innovations that were discussed at the 8th annual Body Computing Conference organized by the USC Center for Body Computing (USC CBC) held on Oct. 3. The annual gathering brings together leaders in the digital health revolution including physicians, engineers, designers, investors and entrepreneurs.

“Historically, medical apps have been under-represented, but new apps and innovations, like those we are unveiling today, equip patients to take control over their personal health,” said Leslie A. Saxon, MD, a Keck Medicine of USC cardiologist and founder/director of USC CBC.

It is not only patients who benefit from the new technology, but also their physicians. The new devices and apps are increasingly able to collect health data from an individual but also can share that information with their physician. Saxon noted that more physicians are testing such apps and incorporating them into their practices.

The time and cost savings for both doctors and their patients from such technology could be extraordinary. As the industry matures, however, those involved are beginning to realize that there are limitations and potential pitfalls from overloading people with too much information.

Speaker Todd Richmond, PhD, director of advanced prototypes at the USC Institute of Creative Technologies, warned that there is a breaking point for humans, in terms of information overload and we don’t know where it is. “We know we can create great technology, but we have to make it with the users in mind.”

Likewise, doctors don’t need more information, but actionable information. One of the companies, AliveCor, discussed how it is improving on the information collected by its device, an electrocardiogram attached to a cell phone case. Using an app to run an algorithm, it can detect patterns consistent with atrial fibrillation, alert the user and send the ECG to a cardiologist.

— By Hope Hamashige