Living in Atlanta and working within the healthcare delivery innovation community, the mounting Ebola outbreak taught us all how quickly the “global” can become local.
For a healthcare system threatened by infectious disease, complex chronic illness, environmental and population management issues, the outbreak also reinforces how new technologies are advancing patient and caregiver safety, prevention, patient monitoring, diagnosis and even treatment.
The answer, through non-contact medicine, is literally in the airwaves.
Researchers at Stanford are pursuing the combined use of laser and carbon nanotubes to provide a more detailed view of blood flow in the brain – down to single capillaries – to increase the understanding of cerebral-vascular disease beyond the imaging provided by CT scan or MRI.
Other researchers are utilizing laser and sound waves to approach skin disorders through light absorption to better gauge tumor depth.
Similar to research at Stanford, the expanded use of infra-red and near-infrared light is being pursued to measure oxygen levels in human tissue for tumor detection, and non-contact infra-red thermometers are becoming available to caregivers.
An ultra-wideband radar sensor developed in Atlanta can see through solid objects and human tissue to continuously monitor cardio-respiratory rate, patient movement, bed presence and other clinically important motion.
And in many of these instances, the future is now, based on published data demonstrating outcomes.
A comparative study appearing in the March 14 edition of the Journal of American Medicine found a range of benefits from non-contact sensors tracking biomotion. Produced in a hospital setting, the study found that over nine months, the utilization of sensors decreased code blue instances dramatically by 86 percent. Days in ICU after surgical transfer, for example, decreased 45 percent and overall length of stay by nine percent.
These types of non-contact biosensors provide continuous and real-time actionable and sharable data scalable to ubiquitous applications. Their use for chronic conditions or within emergency situations such as burn units and the potential to aid differing patient populations continues to expand. In cases of presently non-curable or highly infectious disease states, advances in non-contact medicine could provide equal benefits.
Many Americans are using or are aware of the wearable sensors embedded into clothing or the light-contact wrist bands that provide basic vitals or lifestyle data. Even bathroom scales are generating data that can be captured or shared, all within the realm of passive or compliant patient-generated data.
This consumer market approach, though, is giving way to increased attention and research in the more critical arena of clinical, in-patient and point-of-care solutions, where efficiencies and costs are also important to an advanced and egalitarian healthcare system striving for greater care coordination.
Invited to September’s annual TEDMED conference on health and medicine as part of its innovation and collaboration sessions known as “The Hive,” we expect to learn more about and share information on these and many other breakthroughs in patient care that will likely impact all of our lives or our communities in an increasingly connected world where the future should always be now.
Robert Arkin and Dr. Jiten Chhabra collaborated on this blog post. Robert Arkin is CEO, and Dr. Jiten Chhabra is Medical Director, at Sensiotec. Justin Barnes is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the GA Tech Advanced Technology Development Center.