Researchers are meeting in Phoenix this week for the 2017 Biomedical Engineering Society’s Annual Meeting. The advances mentioned above and discussed during the BESA meeting are just some of the improvements that make healthcare more cost effective, will make work for the healthcare professional easier and will assist patients in getting a firmer grip on their own health and treatment.
Future wearables will not only collect data, they’ll know when to call 9-1-1. Current wearables collect huge amounts of data with little clinical relevance. The next generation of wearables will analyze that data and initiate notification processes when pre-determined markers are triggered. Instead of flooding busy health care practitioners with useless data, the devices will know when to notify loved ones of imminent risk, when to notify a healthcare professional, and when to activate emergency services. Sleep and activity monitoring in elderly and infirm patients will provide new insights for caretakers.
In the next few years, neural technology will enable the blind to see light and shapes and possibly read a large-print book – and some may be able to recognize the faces of people they love. Using a variation of technology used for electrical stimulation of the retina, there is hope for restoring sight for the largest segment of the blind population – people who don’t have a working retina.
Chip-based nanotechnology platforms will enable practitioners to diagnose cancer and other diseases at the patient’s treatment facility, rather than the processing through a clinical laboratory. Blood-borne extracellular vesicles (EVs) can serve as biomarkers for diseased cells, but there has been a lack of diagnostic tools to process EVs in clinical settings. These new diagnostic breakthroughs will dramatically improve early detection rates and facilitate rapid evaluation of treatment plans, significantly improving patient outcomes, particularly in cases where disease variations call for personalized therapy regimens.
Externally stimulating the brain will help an aging population remember more, enable anxious students to focus during exams, and provide those with disabilities and athletes alike with more control of their bodies. Portable, external technology, such as a headset or cap, will externally stimulate specific areas of the brain to improve executive function and working memory, improve motor skill acquisition, and support stress management. Each device, tuned to the user’s age, level of fitness and any existing neural impairment, will be paired with a mechanism that can monitor variables — heart rate, blood pressure, level of alertness — and drive specific brain stimulation patterns based on changing physical conditions or scenarios.