Mobile devices can save lives – and their portability and cheaper cost of manufacture makes them a better choice over large, complicated machinery. Let’s look at three prototype devices that are in development and could transform the way we monitor health conditions.
Around the world, diarrhoea and the dehydration that comes from the condition is the second highest cause of death in children under 5 – even more deadly than malaria. However, the state of dehydration can be difficult to assess. Doctors in remote areas have to rely on visual cues and experience to decide if dehydration might be dangerous.
For this reason, the AMBICA (Accurate Model for Bio-Composition Analysis) system was developed. The wearable cuff uses a tiny, painless electrical current to measure dehydration, and can track whether dehydration is increasing or decreasing in a patient with the use of red or green LED lights, with an alarm sounding if the situation becomes critical.
The relatively inexpensive, simple-to-use device will not only help with detection and long-term accurate monitoring of patients, but it is intuitive and does not require a medical professional to interpret, meaning families could potentially use the device to track a patient’s progress themselves, freeing up medical staff for other areas.
Tracking Blood Pressure
High or low blood pressure is a concern for many people, and the need to see a medical professional every time a pressure check is required means that it can be hard to get accurate long-term picture of how a person’s blood pressure is behaving.
A team of researchers from the US have developed a prototype smartphone case that can easily measure blood pressure, simply by pressing a finger to the back of the phone. During testing, researchers found that the app could return results that were comparable to the standard blood pressure cuff, and 90% of users were able to apply the correct amount of pressure to get accurate results within 1-2 tries.
High blood pressure can be a major factor in heart disease and strokes, and can generally be managed using medication. However, it can be difficult to get accurate readings in a single trip to the doctors, particularly because going to a doctor can cause stress in some people that can create inaccurate results. The current long-term monitoring solution has people wearing an arm cuff with readings taken every 20 minutes. This new device could get the same results, but with significantly less inconvenience.
Monitoring Vital Signs
A new in-ear device is in development that will provide continuous monitoring of heart, brain and breathing functions. Hearable is shaped like a standard ear bud, the device sits in the ear canal to enable it to read changes in the tiny blood vessels in the ear. It is made from foam that moulds to the shape of the ear like a traditional ear plug, but with embedded sensors that can track a patient’s health and wires that pass the information to a monitor.
While the test group for the device has been small, the results are extremely promising. The device will be able to replace other bulky, uncomfortable tech like the chest belt that must be worn for 24 hours for electrocardiogram testing.
What Makes Mobile Devices So Special?
Current medical equipment has many limitations that can affect their ability to gather accurate data. With large devices, it’s often necessary to be present at a doctor’s office to have vital signs checked, which makes continuous monitoring difficult and can even affect the accuracy of the results. The data then needs to be recorded and interpreted by a medical professional.
Smaller devices are much more portable and often cost a lot less when compared to full-sized tech. They can be taken home and worn if necessary, with the patient being able to self-monitor. Continuous or regular monitoring is simple, and is more likely to be accurate as the patient is in their own environment and not required to wear bulky hardware. The data is easy to collect and can be transferred wherever necessary.
While these specialist technologies are still in development, users are already seeing the benefits of mobile devices, from blood glucose monitors that can send data wirelessly to an insulin pump, to the many fitness trackers available. The development of mobile devices is an exciting prospect, and as medical equipment becomes smaller, managing healthcare becomes easier.