By Carl Weiss
When it comes to technology, the medical profession is no slouch. During the course of the past few decades all manners of high-tech diagnostic tools, surgical suites and bionic limbs have become commonplace in doctor’s offices and hospitals. But what most people are unaware of is the fact that there are a number of revolutionary new technologies that are going to forever change the very way that a visit to the doctor or ER takes place.
Is There a Doctor in the Mouse?
The age of the virtual doctor has already arrived across the US. Invented by NASA for use on the International Space Station, telemedicine has found its way into a number of hospitals, as well as online. Telemedicine connects patients with physicians via the Internet, allowing them to skip a trip to the doctor’s office while saving money at the same time. Several online businesses have created models where patients can teleconsult with a physician, including MDLive, while others such as iRobot have created telepresence robots that allow physicians to interface with patients around the world. Some of the more sophisticated models even allow a surgeon to perform surgery by remote control.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to maintaining one’s health via technology. An entire industry has been spawned for health monitoring devices. Everything from bracelets to watches are currently available that are designed to monitor a wearer’s vital signs and vital statistics as they go about their everyday activities. One company, AiQ has introduced an entire line of “smart clothing” that does everything from measuring the user’s heart rate, respiration rage and skin temperature. Their SolarMan vest not only offers the wearer the ability to monitor their vital signs, but it even recharges itself and other electronic devices via built-in solar panels.
While some of these devices are designed to be monitored by the user, others such as products made by BodyTel offer those with chronic illnesses Bluetooth enabled devices that automatically send readings to the user’s doctor. Capable of monitoring and reporting on everything from blood glucose levels to blood pressure, this technology represents a whole new level of health care.
Staying Ahead of the Crowd
While many of the new medical technologies are designed to be worn on the lower extremities, there are several that are meant to be deployed above the neck. One such device being developed by Imec looks like a prop from Star Trek. A wearable EEG with built-in EKG patch, the device keeps tabs on your brain and heart activity. The data collected is then transmitted in real time to a receiver located up to 10 miles from the headset. (If you choose to wear it outdoors I suggest you don a hat.)
That doesn’t mean that this technology won’t eventually be miniaturized to the point that it will fit unobtrusively into a hairband or ball cap. In fact, at least other medical device pioneer has created the prototype for a blood glucose monitor that resides in a contact lens. Google recently announces that the contact lens it is designing will measure glucose in tears on a continuous basis using a wireless chip and miniature glucose sensor. Once available, the device will make a lot of diabetics happy, since the predominant method of testing blood glucose levels involves pricking the finger.
These Boots Were Made for Walking
At the other end of the spectrum, Moticon has introduced the world’s first computerized insole that can be used in any shoe to measure motion for patients and athletes. The bionic insole comes complete with firmwear that communicates with a user’s computer via a USB radio stick. In 2010, Moticon was awarded the International Innovation Award for this product. (Move overDr. Scholl’s !)
Speaking of bionics, just before Thanksgiving 2013, Mick Ebeling returned home from Sudan's Nuba Mountains where he set up what is probably the and training facility. Called Project Daniel, the effort was begun by one man who learned about a 14-year old double amputee named Daniel. Flying to Sudan with a 3D printer, Mick not only created prosthetic arms and hands for Daniel, but he vowed to teach the locals how to help many of the 50,000 Sudanese who have lost limbs from the ongoing conflict in the area. (See the video at http://www.notimpossiblelabs.com/)
Docs in the Box
Of course the internet isn’t only used today by patients. It is also being increasingly employed by doctors as well. In fact there is a prominent new social network for the medical industry called MedMasters.com. This network connects members of the medical community by providing a searchable database of doctors, nurses, medical IT providers, medical recruiters and pharmaceutical sales conduits that is as easy as point and click. Useful for everyone from healthcare providers to people seeking to enter the industry, this is the interactive go to network for the medical industry. Best of all, joining the network is free and easy.
Take Two Diodes and Call Me in the Morning
While many of these cutting edge technologies concern themselves with big ticket issues, there are some that aim to alleviate the small problems that the public faces every day.
For migraine sufferers help is on the way. For many years, doctors have associated the most chronic forms of headache with the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a facial nerve bundle. Until recently there were treatments that provided long term SPG relief. A new technology under clinical testing at is an implantable tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache. The system consists of a small nerve stimulating device that can be operated by remote control whenever a patient senses the onset of a headache. The resulting signals stimulate the SPG nerves and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters.
Bear in mind that these are but a few of the latest medical technologies that are being developed to help people live longer, healthier lives. If you want to learn even more, tune into our “Working the Web to Win” radio show on Blog Talk Radio. Because the one thing you can say about taking your medicine online is that it doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group, a cutting-edge digital marketing agency located in Jacksonville, Florida. You can also see the Web TV version of Working the Web to Win on YouTube.