Your phone will know you’re sick before you do

Editor’s Note: Mark Curtis is chief client officer at design consultancy Fjord, responsible for designing mobile services such as BBC iPlayer and Foursquare. He has written extensively about how mobile will reshape health care.

Story highlights

Smartphones will soon be able to deliver diagnosis and suggest cures even before we know we're ill, says Mark Curtis

"Body hacking" tools, such as wearable bands that monitor physical activity, will help improve our health awareness, Curtis says

Medical monitoring technology will open new area of debate over privacy and the cost of health care insurance

In the not-too-distant future, you’ll receive a full diagnosis and cure from your smartphone before you have even realized you’re unwell. While this may seem like science fiction, it’s on the cusp of becoming a reality. Digital is set to embark on a path of radical transformation in the health and wellness sector and in doing so it will help us to overcome some of the most significant challenges we face in health care.

We have an aging society and as elderly people account for a larger share of the population, the prevalence of long-term health problems will increase. This will cause a bigger cost burden and pressure health systems to accommodate an aging workforce.

Mark Curtis

Furthermore, lifestyle-related chronic health problems, including obesity and diabetes, are on the rise with dramatic implications for health service budgets. The cost of supporting these demographic trends is unsustainable but digital services are likely to be part of the solution society is looking for.

Tell us: What’s your dream smartphone feature?

One trend that’s captured the imagination of many is “body hacking” or understanding the “quantified self.” Whether it’s an app tracking your dietary intake or a wearable band counting the physical activity you undertake each day, these devices provide you with the tools to understand your health immediately based on the data your body has provided.

Every individual can benefit from better access to information about their bodies and greater awareness leads to better understanding of the consequences. Little by little this starts to change behaviors.