Wireless Bed-Side Manner

E-mail Melanie Martella

When it comes to identifying industry segments that are expected to grow, medical gets listed (as far as I can tell) every time. The recent flurry of interest in wireless medical devices is just part of this ongoing trend.

As a whole, modern health care uses more automated testing and monitoring equipment than ever before; a greater fraction of this equipment is portable or mobile; and there's an increased emphasis on remote monitoring for an aging population and those dealing with chronic illnesses. All spell more business for sensor manufacturers that operate within the medical device space.

I'm going to ignore the debates and kerfuffle over electronic medical records and whether they are the One True Way or the Path to Destruction. I'm a lot more interested in the fact that wireless sensors are moving out of the lab and into real-world use. Over the years, we at Sensors seen a lot of really wonderful medical sensor projects—everything from better heart monitoring, digital X-rays, robotic surgery, improved radiation delivery, checking the health of implants, to cameras that travel the gut. A common feature of these medical sensors is the amount and quality of data they provide. Think of it as condition-based monitoring for bodies!

Dr. Eric Topol is a big fan of wireless medicine. He's a noted biomedical researcher and Chief Medical Officer of the West Wireless Health Institute, a recently founded organization dedicated to the identification, validation, and acceleration of wireless technologies for medicine. He thinks wireless medical sensors and other wireless devices are key to making our current healthcare systems more efficient. In his interview with mobihealthnews he talks at some length of his vision for wireless medical devices and why he considers them so exciting.

Why is this happening now? I think it's a confluence of technology, knowledge, attitude, and demand. The sensors are smaller and better and cheaper. The supporting electronics are better. Wireless communications are more robust, reliable, flexible, and more familiar. And we have a growing population of people who need medical care. Now, we can put all the pieces together.

For the record, while I do expect wireless diagnostic and monitoring sensors to improve hospital efficiency and patient care, that view neglects the efficiency improvements that come from being able to locate mobile equipment when you need it, make sure your refrigeration units are all operating as required, that your climate control is intelligently implemented, and that your data centers aren't too hot or too cold, all of which are other applications for wireless sensors.

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