Ford's in-car health options: How much is too much?


Ford's futuristic health monitoring system may have garnered tons of positive press just 10 days ago , but nay-sayers now are coming out of hiding to take a whack at the overall value of in-car health checks.

One big question: When does this technology become intrusive? Ford's initial glucose monitoring system may simply ask questions about the driver's blood sugar readings and provide suggestions when glucose levels are high or low. Another pending technology will alert asthmatic drivers to pollen counts and other allergen levels in the air, allowing them to prevent major allergy attacks while driving.

But one possible innovation, designed to detect driver stress, could actually "intervene" to decrease the driver's anxiety levels, Gary Strumolo, Ford's health/wellness research manager told Bloomberg News. Right now the intervention might simply be changing the radio station to more soothing music, he says. But it also might involve the car choosing to automatically send phone calls to voice mail when it determines the driver is stressed. In the future, could we see technology turn the car off if a driver shows signs of road rage? Or independently reduce speeds when the driver's heart rate is elevated or erratic?

The systems also could suffer from inaccurate data, some predict. Not all remote monitors obtain accurate readings on all patients. It's the reason diabetic patients use dozens of varieties of glucometers. One blogger, a diabetic herself, noted that the Medtronic CGM monitor in some Ford models doesn't work for her.

Another complaint: The car may not be the best place for checking one's health status. One blogger suggests that health checks should take place when the car is off, not on, to prevent distracting the driver. Even more disturbing: The specter of patients with multiple conditions being monitored simultaneously by the car's systems, and possibly receiving multiple alerts to read or interact with while driving.

"To me, Ford's new plan for health and wellness service apps seem to be another added distraction. One that, dare I say it, could ultimately be more hurtful than helpful," says CafeMom blogger Emily Abbate.

One final fear is that this kind of parental technology will discourage users from taking personal responsibility for their health conditions, and their driving, says AutomativeNews blogger Jamie LaReau.

What do you think? Is Ford being innovative, or just invasive?  - Sara

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