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Can the IoE Revolutionize Alternative Medicine?

November 1, 2013
at 11:35 am PST

The other week I found myself chatting with a fellow healthcare (and Cisco) enthusiast on Twitter about alternative medicine and I experienced an Aha! moment – alternative medicine may soon have an entirely new face if it’s driven by consumer adoption of advanced (and in many cases, currently available) technologies.

@petra1400

Let me explain. I recently wrote a post about the true price of affordable healthcare, which focused on the innovative technologies that will help make healthcare more efficient overall by incorporating dynamic monitoring techniques as a means of prophylactic care. When I wrote that post, I didn’t realize I was actually describing a new age of alternative medicine!

When most of us think of alternative medicine (myself included), we initially associate it with traditional homeopathic remedies and elements from Eastern medicine like acupuncture and herbal therapies.

However, alternative medicine encompasses virtually all forms of non-scientific medical treatment other than mainstream, Western medicine, focusing on a holistic approach. Although alternative medicine often forgoes any type of digital integration, I believe it could be greatly more beneficial if the technological advantages afforded by the IoE (Internet of Everything) were incorporated.   Take headaches, for example. They’re arguably one of the most common problems people experience and most of us just reach for a couple pills (usually Tylenol, Advil or Aspirin) to resolve the headache. This is a ‘broad spectrum solution’ applied by almost everyone, but headaches are much more unique than they seem – they’re usually caused by different things at different times for different people. Sometimes headaches are caused by tension or lack of sleep, while other times they’re caused by over/under-caffeination, and still other times headaches are caused by skewed vision (which could be caused by an incorrect prescription or a scratch on the lens of your sunglasses) to name a few. Regardless of the cause, we mostly apply the same remedy which makes the symptom (the headache) go away, yet doesn’t do anything to address the cause of the problem. In other words, the headache is almost always presenting itself to tell us something else is going on and we’re just telling the headache to keep quiet.

Most of us aren’t sensitive enough to know what’s really going on when we have a headache and alternative medicine would have us become more in-tune with ourselves so we can identify the root problems we’re experiencing. But what if we just haven’t developed that skill, or need help doing so? That’s where technology can step in to help teach us how to be more sensitive, or at the very least, learn to determine the cause of symptoms like headaches and tell us how to address the root problem.

Imagine a piece of wearable technology (or a group of wearable products) that monitor(s) both internal and external conditions to identify the precursors to headaches, using something like our smartphones to warn us to change something we’re doing to help prevent the headache. I believe this kind of mass customized alternative medicine can and will revolutionize the way we diagnose and treat problems, evolving the grassroots concept of alternative medicine to include some of the latest and greatest technologies.

Do you believe in alternative medicine & do you think it could benefit from a little dose of the IoE?

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14 Comments.


  1. Shaun Guthrie

    I fully believe in alternative medicine and use my benefits at work for massages and acupuncture to help remedy things like stress and headaches. I see the technology you mentioned, “wearable technology”, supplementing alternative medicine so that perhaps we can be more aware of what we are doing to our bodies so we can let our massage therapist know whats going on and therefore able to treat us more effectively. Or take this one step further, the wearable technology can alert us to what we are doing to our bodies so that we can make corrective action before we even need to see the massage therapist, acupuncturist or the use of drugs, medicine and alike. The benefits would equate to a potentially healthier society and in turn reduce the amount of health benefits required. I know drug and insurance companies are probably cringing right now but the health of our society outweighs the greedy pocketbooks in my opinion.

    A though provoking topic!

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    • November 1, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Shaun, and I completely agree about how beneficial these new technologies can be!

      I believe the biggest problem we’ll face is consumer adoption, specifically around the divide that will occur between people who are willing to have their health monitored in real-time and those who aren’t.

      Are you one who embraces health monitoring technology, or do you feel the privacy issues don’t outweigh the benefits?

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      • Shaun Guthrie

        Id be open to it if i had the option to control who had access to it. There could be a version that just gives you insight into what’s going on and simple corrective actions. However it presents challenges where a device is now telling you what you could do. Presents perhaps legal issues…

        lots to think about for sure

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  2. November 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Very cool, Isaac! This is a great blog! Thank you :-).

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    • November 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      I have you to thank for inspiring it, Petra!

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  3. November 2, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Interesting perspective! Though I have not tried alternative medicine myself,I know a number of people who have tried it and vouch for it. The potential adoption of technology and the application of it may encounter some resistance in certain types of alternative treatments and medicine like naturopathy or ayurvedic medicine. Also, would these wearable devices create more cyber-condriacs?

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    • November 2, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Dax!

      While purists (especially those that practice ayurvedic medicine and naturopathy) will likely resist the incorporation of technology into their healing practice, I believe those who are (even somewhat) progressive in their beliefs will embrace the possibilities afforded by adding technology that contributes to a heightened level of self-awareness, considering that benefit will exponentially contribute to the effectiveness of a holistic approach to healthcare.

      With that said, wearable devices can certainly create more cybercondriacs, but I expect the wearables will come with software that helps interpret the data which will, in-turn, generate meaningful information, counteracting the cybercondriac effect.

      To elaborate, it seems like that we have more cybercondriacs today because people can access petabytes of information at virtually anytime and anywhere, which they’re trying to apply to what they perceive is going on inside the. When wearables become more prevalent, people won’t have to actively seek that information – rather software will present the relevant information based on the biometric data it receives, and that should make the diagnosis process more accurate.

      Do you agree with my thoughts/assumptions about how biometric sensing wearable technology will effect the general population (as far as cybercondriacs go), and do you think more people will gravitate towards a technology-powered holistic approach to medicine?

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  4. November 2, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Thanks Isaac! Generally speaking, I agree with your rationale. I believe that it is only a mater of time before the old-school diehards accept the benefits of technology and start adopting it.

    As for cybercondriacs,they are a byproduct of the information age. I must admit that I myself have tried to diagnose my squash related aches and pains with the help of Dr. Google!

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  5. This is a neat idea, but there are some issues.
    1. The technology is farther off then expressed here. We are talking about an affordable product that can tell if there is a scratch on your sunglasses and if there is a build up of pressure in your sinus cavities.

    2. IoE is a bad name. We are describing a PAN (Personal Area Network) as an internet, but it would just be one network. Also *oE is already commonly used for * over Ethernet, like PoE, PPPoE or MPFRoE.

    With that said the idea is cool one with certain parts of it possibly deployable in the near future. This also be expanded to brain mapping hat that could learn how we experience different pains and provide feedback (distant future idea).

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  6. Its an interesting perspective, for sure. Its definitely something that would have mass appeal, but its not for me. I already, through a recent relationship, learned quite a bit about a lot of this and about listening to what my body is telling me. For those who don’t care or don’t know how to learn to do such things, I think this sort of technology would be fantastic.

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    • November 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Thank you for validating my thoughts, Harold!

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  7. November 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    I can foresee a device that will be telling me I should get some rest that I will crush to turn notifications off. Things to do, no time to rest :)

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    • November 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Nice, John…nice. :)

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  8. Thank you so much for all of this! Great writing.

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