While advances in technology promise to lengthen our lives and improve overall quality of life, this only increases demand for new technology to take things further. For example, the rise of pace makers and insulin pumps saves lives, but it increases demand for close monitoring of the devices and those who rely upon them. Let’s look at the future of electronics in the medical device sector.
The smart home’s ripple effect
The smart home is becoming a protective shell surrounding the occupant. It allows the home-bound to order things they need and have it delivered to their home. This is a boon for the disabled, whether they are ordering groceries or diabetic supplies. At the same time, it allows friends and family that aren’t there to check in on relatives who can’t operate a smart phone. And you could theoretically set up the information appliance to call for a caregiver after a certain period in which there is no response. It certainly allows someone unable to get up to call for help if they can’t move but can speak. If a door is left open or a window unexpectedly opens, the chosen responsible party could check what is going on through a security system via a smart device and associated app.
Telemedicine is any form of medical treatment delivered remotely. It can take the form of a face to face consultation with a doctor through a video chat. It is starting to include people talking to artificial intelligences in place of a counselor or using various assessments that escalate the case to a human healthcare provider when necessary. Telemedicine can connect seamlessly to someone’s smart home technology, such as when the doctor’s office sets up a medication reminder to be given twice a day by the Amazon Alexa or Siri system.
New monitoring technology
The smart watch is one of the most exciting new electronics in the medical device sector. Its initial adopters are overwhelmingly athletes hoping to monitor and improve their athletic performance. Yet these devices can be used to monitor the heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure of someone who is in declining health. The smart watch or other monitoring device can automatically log the information, eliminating the need for patients to do so and making it nearly impossible for them to falsify records. Depending on the situation, data collected by a scale or glucose monitor could be collected and forward to a doctor’s electronic medical records system. And any unusual reading could be flagged for a caregiver or medical professional to review. This is increasingly common in body temperature monitors and sleep apnea systems.
Advances in intelligent devices and wireless technology are also creating many new portable, miniaturized medical systems. For example, we’re starting to see DIY EKG monitors.
Location tracking has long been associated with GPS and navigation systems. It is now being used with the disabled. Location tracking bracelets are being put on special needs individuals and older adults with dementia. If the child misses the bus and goes wandering, they could be located soon after they failed to arrive at school. An older adult who takes the dog for a walk and doesn’t return in a reasonable time frame could be located, whether they got lost or fell down.
Photograph by Darko Stojanovic