Lightning fast computers and state-of-the-art technology are revolutionizing the world around us on an almost daily basis. What this means for health care is that we are on the forefront of a rapidly changing landscape, where tech-savvy researchers and medical-minded entrepreneurs are teaming up to bring us advances in medicine and health treatment that could extend the human life span far beyond our current unacceptable limits. The Wireless Connectivity in Medical Device Conference held in San Jose, California, is an event that showcases just how far we’ve come…and how far we’re about to go.
Increasingly, hospital staff rely on the nearly instantaneous communication and diagnostic information provided by wireless devices. The idea that someone’s medical records will not be immediately available anywhere in the world or that a healthy person needs to be confined to a bed while being monitored, is all about to change. In fact, one of the panelists discussed his concerns about how FDA regulation may disrupt the rapid advance of new technologies and how the companies attending the conference can overcome it. This article highlights some of the more remarkable companies and products that were on display at the conference.
An impressive example of a wireless medical device that physicians can use is ResolutionMD. ResolutionMD can transmit a CT scan of the head of a suspected stroke victim from a remote hospital to the iPhone of a specialist at another hospital. In stroke, “time is brain,” which means having rapid access to a specialist can mean rapid diagnosis and treatment to prevent loss of brain tissue. With ResolutionMD, the specialist can be a great distance from the patient, but can nonetheless examine images of the patient’s brain as if in the same hospital. ResolutionMD guards against compromised patient privacy by not saving the image data in the iPhone.
CareFusion is a company making and distributing infusion pumps for administering medications in hospitals. At least 100,000 people are killed worldwide every year by medication errors, according to CareFusion’s Vice President of Connectivity. CareFusion hopes to reduce that number. Prescriptions from physicians are electronically transmitted to pharmacists for review, and then wirelessly transmitted to an infusion pump that will administer the medication to the patient. A nurse scans the identification of the patient and the medication, validating that both are correct. Some medications, such as those for blood pressure, can be administered with a rate or volume that achieves the desired blood pressure. CareFusion installs its infusion pumps throughout a whole hospital, to ensure standardization and uniformity for safety.
The President of MicroCHIPS, Inc. described his company’s use of an implantable medication delivery device to overcome compliance problems. Parathyroid hormone may be required for treatment of osteoporosis, but patients are expected to administer the hormone to themselves by daily injection. After two years, 77% of osteoporosis patients will have stopped their daily injections because of the pain and inconvenience. An implantable device that subcutaneously administers parathyroid hormone on a daily basis has proven to be a successful solution.
MicroCHIPS also offers an implantable device that can deliver multiple medications (“pharmacy on a chip”) to geriatric patients who have trouble remembering to take all their pills. With portable, wearable infusion devices that communicate wirelessly with physicians, the physician can easily change the dose of the prescription remotely.
The DuoFertility monitor predicts a woman’s most fertile days well in advance. The DuoFertility sensor is worn under the arm like a patch, makes up to 20,000 measurements per day, and wirelessly transmits the data to a PC which can forward the data to company experts over the internet. The inventor has said, “My job is to get millions of women pregnant.”
Electronic Seizure Stopper
One of the more incredible devices in development was an electric seizure stopper that could greatly improve the lives of those afflicted with epileptic seizures. This device is under development, but it attaches to the head of someone prone to seizures. When the device detects the development of epileptic seizures, it stops those seizures by the delivery of short bursts of electric pulses. Half of epileptics do not respond to drug treatment and the other half often suffers side effects from the drugs. The electric pulse device has no side effects.
Internal Video Capsule
Another medical equipment designer discussed his work on a video-capable capsule that could be swallowed easily by a patient. As the capsule makes its way through the patient’s body, it would provide video recordings of the gastrointestinal tract, and wirelessly transmit those videos during an 8-hour transit through the body. The patient can be at home or elsewhere while the videos are transmitted to a receiver that he or she is wearing. Stomach ulcers and colon polyps are only some of the things that could be observed. The developer said that different cell types provide different information in response to different wavelengths or laser imaging.
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