UrCare — ‘Nest’ for your toilet
The world is moving from a curative to a preventative system of healthcare and insurance companies, and healthcare providers are actively endorsing technologies that can prevent diseases and ER visits from happening. I have already introduced why Insurance companies would be interested in preventative technologies in an earlier post. We at Cornell Tech have worked on a project with McKinsey and built a device that addresses this emerging trend. After mulling over the name for some time, our team finally decided to name our product UrCare.
UrCare is an IoT device that can detect symptoms of UTI (Urinary Tract Infections), kidney disorders, diabetes, and a host of other diseases faster than ever before. And how do we do it? we install the device in your toilet that sits in snugly on the inside and every time someone pees in their toilet, it catches a little bit of the pee sample and sets of chemical reactions in the device. The reactions give off a particular colour for each kind of disease and a photosensor picks up the changes in the colour that are then relayed to the cloud.
Although, the urine analysis technology is not radically new; the convenience and frequency of early detection can improve the lives of millions of people and drastically reduce healthcare costs. Our prototype focussed on detecting UTIs at a very early stage. UTIs typically are more common among women but also affect men across a wide range of age groups. Older population with Alzheimer’s face a lot of trouble with UTIs as they develop behavioral problems such as confusion, and agitation which might be ignored as regular symptoms of Alzheimer’s itself. This peculiar scenario puts over 5 Million Alzheimer’s patients at risk for undiagnosed UTIs.
Conventional urine strip tests look for the presence of Nitrites and Leukocytes (white blood cells) in the urine sample and give off a particular colour in case of deviations. This testing process is cumbersome for an individual and is prone to errors depending on a few factors such as ambient light, time of observation, and presence of contaminants. In the case of Alzheimer’s patients, doctors and caretakers ignore the initial signs which lets the disease go undetected.
The nitrite and the leukocyte levels (in our prototype) are tracked on a daily basis and any irregularities in the readings will be sent as an alert to the user. The user can then flag these to the doctor. A few contaminants, and the occasional bad day can trigger a false positive but if the same trend continues for a few days, it can be diagnosed as an early sign of UTI. The app on the user/ caretaker’s phone can sync up with ZocDoc’s API and automatically schedule an appointment with the doctor.
The convenience factor and the non-intrusiveness of this methodology will create positive behaviours in people who want to take steps towards leading a healthy life style. The frequency of such detection also ensures that people are not caught unawares by late stage symptoms and can get proper care much before the Emergency Room situation. The world is moving from a curative to a preventative healthcare system and products like these would aid in the acceleration of the transition.