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Aug 22 / Dale Harris

Future of Medical Electronics

Over the last few decades, medical electronics strengthened health care infrastructure in different ways from medical test digitizing to therapeutic procedures with the help of tele-medicine and health IT. This fast growing domain needs experts from technology providing industries, key decision makers, stake holders, etc.

Medical electronics experienced double digit growth in recent years and this growth trajectory is expected to continue due to rise in chronic diseases, increased urbanization and population.

The U.S. National Academy of Engineering held a meeting in 2009 and took inputs from people all over the world to determine technological challenges of the 21st century to encourage engineers to bring with solutions.

The major challenges are: 1) to reduce labor in diagnosis 2) to advance health informatics and 3) to engineer better medicines. The future developments can be expected in fields where the use of robotic technology, telemedicine, body area networks, drug delivery mechanisms and electronic pills is large.

1. Reducing labor in diagnosis
The first challenge is reducing labor in diagnosis. With the advancement in the medical electronic devices, medical care expenses are increasing day by day. If this continuous to be the same in the next coming years it can’t sustain. This is exactly true in case of United states where health care costs are extreme. If the goal is to reduce the costs of health care one should look at the points where the costs are high. Costs are similar to medical and other services, which include raw materials, labor and capital. Advancements in the information technology and automation & robotics dictates the changes that are expected in health care.

To take the advantage of cost savings offered and time zone differences, many medical institutions outsource tasks reading of radio graphs and study of pathology slides. Use of robotic technology can reduce the cost and brings a positive impact on use of labor. Robots can be employed in child care and surgery can be performed by robots that are directed by doctor. This all leads to reduction in the cost in medical electronics industry.

2. Advancement in health informatics
Advancement in health informatics helps establish digital or electronic health records. This helps provide information with respect to the patients whenever necessary. The major challenge here is to give timely information to professionals at any part of the world. The present health information system that currently exists has some problem in interacting with one another in computer language. If a system is used to interact with spoken language rather than computer language then this challenges can be over come.

3. Engineering better medicines
To engineer better medicines is important as we have entered the period of personalized medicine. It is necessary to understand the patient’s condition and then give the medication. In the coming days, drugs and other treatments will be engineered depending of the individual needs while reducing the side effects otherwise drugs will be given to the clients based on their own specifications. Some other systems of future medical electronics are Body area networks, drug delivery mechanisms and electronic pills.

Body Area Networks (BANs)
These are compact wireless sensors connected to the body. To minimize the maintenance BANs have a long battery life. BANs monitor signs of pulse, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. The sensors on the body send the information to gateways such as PCs or mobile phones and finally to remote physicians. Three main areas where BANs are used are brain monitoring, cardiac monitoring and emotion monitoring.

Drug delivery mechanisms
Advancement in therapeutic methods will happen in the years to come. When compared to the bolus approach, today new methods of drug delivery that are natural are being developed. Improved methods of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine may help eliminate the need for certain drugs or hormonal replacement therapy.

Electronic pills
It does the functions like stimulate damaged tissue, targeted drug delivery for certain types of cancer, measure bio markers or monitor gastric problems. However, for charging those pills a non-toxic power source is necessary. The pill battery is created by taking in the form of pill, which can produce current same as the normal or regular battery. The battery of the pill is made of biodegradable material found in the human body. As the work is in progress, it is expected that this will meet within a short term.

These are major challenge the future advancements in the medical electronics has to meet in the coming days.

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