The Exciting & Evolving Convergence of Technology & Healthcare
Mobile technology originally designed for the consumer and business marketplace is hard at work in a healthcare setting near you. The explosion of devices and apps being used in hospitals, clinics, and remote environments has attracted the attention of the Food and Drug Administration.
As a result, the FDA has published guidelines for the use of apps that “transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device” that could impact patient safety. That certainly was not on the mind of engineers and developers when they created the tools that healthcare professionals are – or will soon be – using every day.
Chief Information Officers in hospitals across the nation are enthusiastic about the possibilities of deploying Google Glass in their organizations. Just ask Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The hospital, located in Boston, Massachusetts, has modified Google Glass for use in the Emergency Room.
The Google Glass Explorer program has allowed for emergency room physicians, surgeons, nurses, and others to experiment with the technology in real-time, real-world situations. The heads-free nature of the device is not only ideal for sterile environments, it allows for full focus on the patient interaction either in the exam room or on the operating table. In the future, Google Glass may be used to record and transmit video of patient encounters, allowing for an immersive online health informatics experience that goes beyond the hard data being collected.
Near-field communication – or NFC – is not a new concept, but its emergence into the healthcare realm is a fairly new phenomenon. The technology represents an affordable and accessible way to gather patient data. NFC can be used in conjunction with RFID (Radio-frequency Identification) tags placed on patient wrist bands. This simple, yet effective, tool can help track patient encounters with physicians, nurses, and other members of the care team to ensure that patients are receiving the proper attention. Patients can also be equipped wireless diagnostic sensors that use NFC technology to transmit encrypted health data to their provider’s mobile device while they are at the bedside.
Telepresence technologies have been in use for about two decades, with a primary use for video teleconferencing by large international companies. Today, the concept of telepresence is all around us, from Skype to drones. The next innovation that you can expect to see on the hospital floor is true robotic telepresence – a free-standing, remote-controlled robot equipped with a camera, microphone, and video display. This technology would allow physicians to do rounds at their local facility while at a conference overseas, help family members visit with loved ones who may be in a hospital several states away, or support nurses and social workers in seeing more patients “face to face.”