New Healthcare Technologies:
Emerging from Science Fiction to Become Science Fact
Health care reform has created a need for more efficient patient care. Industry engineers and scientists are answering the call with a steady stream of innovations for improving health care delivery across the entire spectrum of the medical profession. In the very near future, professionals with a health informatics degree will find it easier to collect and analyze data with exciting new technologies like these:
- Direct-to-Home Healthcare
The next generation of telemedicine is leveraging always-on connectivity to monitor patient’s vital signs and disease state. This allows for the ongoing collection of data that can be used in different ways to facilitate early intervention and identify the cause-and-effect of lifestyle choices and chronic conditions.
- Intelligent Pills
Companies including Proteus and Phillips are actively developing intelligent pills that can deliver targeted drug therapy to specific areas of the body, monitor the body’s environment (e.g. pH levels, temperature), and transmit data via wireless technology.
- Medication Management
Another fast-emerging area of opportunity is seen in pharmacy-based technologies that help patients and caregivers improve medication management. One device is the aptly named “CleverCap” which sets off an alarm and dispenses a prescribed dose when it is time for patients to take their meds. The cap is programmed to connect to wireless devices and the Internet to help physicians monitor and pharmacists monitor compliance.
- Melanoma Biopsies
Dermatologists now have access to a new handheld device called MelaFind that can help reduce the number of invasive surgical biopsies. The device uses optical scanning technology originally developed by the Department of Defense to perform a multispectral analysis of tissue morphology and match the data against a registry of digital images of melanomas and other skin diseases.
- Needle-Free Glucose Testing
A company called Echo Therapeutics is developing a transdermal biosensor that would replace the need for diabetics to perform daily skin pricks to measure their blood chemistry. The sensor collects glucose data and transmits it to a wireless monitor that triggers an alarm if the levels enter into a dangerous range.
- Medical Robots
iRobot Corp., the company behind the popular Roomba robotic vacuum, has partnered with InTouch Health to develop a robot that can move through hospital units and help monitor patient conditions. The robot has received FDA clearance to for hospital use and is expected to be able to make routine rounds, update patient charts and keep track of vital signs.