Marital Harmony Restored – Musings on a Smart Toilet

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June 15, 2014

Recently in the WSJ there was an article referencing the popularity of the “smart” toilet AKA the Toto Washlet. Since I am a gastroenterologist, this article was of great interest. What do these toilets do? As it turns out, quite a lot. First off, and of most importance to the fastidious Japanese householder (where these toilets are near ubiquitous, found in 75% of households), they keep you clean with the spritz of a wand. This wand then cleans itself and retracts. No need for toilet paper! Additionally the seat goes up AND down, automatically and silently. There is an automatic air drying feature, an air freshener, a front and rear wash, music playing etc, etc. I was impressed but envisioned more.

We are entering the era of digital wireless technology being able to provide offsite health data. Dr. Eric Topol in a TED talk references current and future possibilities. Currently wireless data receivers used in conjunction with a smart phone can record your heart rhythm, the adequacy of your sleep, your blood sugars over time, and much more. An iPhone can be transformed to function as an ultrasound, echocardiogram machine or fetal monitor. They can sense your temperature, your respiratory rate, your fluid status and the adequacy of your blood oxygen level. This information can then be sent to your physician and adjustments made, thereby allowing you to be treated without leaving home.

Suppose toilets could record health data just as wrist bands now record steps, heart rate, and calories burned, or scales record body fat content and weight. Imagine if they sensed stool density, fat content, solidity, or presence of blood in the stool, performed DNA analysis to screen for polyps or cancer or detected sugar in the urine as a sign of diabetes? Results could be synch’d to the sittee’s phone and relayed to their doctor.

Perhaps you, the indulgent reader, think that my musings are farfetched. However, consider that the average American spends 30 minutes on the toilet a day. Time a wasting could become time well spent.

Pfanner, Eric, Fukase, Atsuko. “Smart Toilets Arrive in U.S; Japanese Seek to Broaden Appeal Beyond Niche; Some Commodes Play Music.” WSJ 5/27/14 B8