Technology is helping make advancements in every front in the medical sector. From prosthetics to robot assisted surgery to new measurement devices, tech is revolutionizing the way medicine is practiced and administered. Anything from mobile phones to contact lenses can be used to monitor health conditions (more on that in a minute). Minimally invasive surgeries can be performed thanks to increases in accuracy by robots. There’s a lot going on, so if this is something you’re interested in, read on.
The first area of tech and health that I think is amazing, and getting better each day is the prosthetics field. Prosthetics are becoming increasingly more realistic. Not only in appearance, but also in function. For instance, there are some prosthetics that can now detect impulses in the limbs they are attached to that can provide some basic function. Someone with a prosthetic arm, for example, may be able to open and close his hand, or turn the wrist to maneuver objects more easily. In experimental psychology and bioengineering, scientists are currently working on a way to transmit tactile input via prosthetics, with prosthetics being connected to the brain regions that process touch. This could then give the wearer simulated sensations of their environment. More complex prosthetics, in terms of movement, are also letting amputees move with more freedom, similar to as though they had never lost a limb.
With healthcare, an important tool in making sure patients are treated correctly is the array of diagnostic tools a doctor may use. Think of heart rate monitors or blood pressure cuffs. Some really cool new tech is being made right now with the explicit purpose of providing more accurate, comprehensive data to doctors. For example, Google’s experimental project team, Google [X], announced that they were developing a contact lens that could help measure glucose levels for diabetic patients. A tiny wireless chip would transfer the data collected from the lens to another device, presumably a phone or computer. In this case, tech is helping improve the quality of life for patients by changing the way they measure their glucose; instead of a finger prick, they just put in a contact lens, no invasiveness involved. In a mobile era, there’s also a big push to use mobile phones to collect data and diagnose patients, especially in countries where mobile phones are prevalent, but good health care is not. Doctors could text in serious cases in rural areas to larger hospitals, so that patients may get the best care. Or adaptive devices that can be connected to phones, such as an oximeter that measures blood oxygen levels and pulse, can be utilized to gather more comprehensive cases, potentially even letting doctors remotely diagnose patients. That’s a pretty powerful future, if you ask me.
If you want to get involved in medical technology, there are easy and intensive way to join the field. While many jobs need formal education, if you have some good ideas or research, consider making an app that health providers can use. Ways to visualize data or make use of different measurement adapters are easy and much needed apps to make. Or you can cooperate with non-profits or NGOs to do anything from web development to business administration to actual volunteering. Health and tech is an exciting place to be right now. Whether you read about it or get involved on a technical level, keep an eye out on the intersection of health and technology.