Looking at current medical technology trends, it becomes clear that the hospitals of the future will be filled with more gadgets than a Dr. Seuss book. As the U.S. tries to tip the scale of cost and effectiveness in a more favorable direction, technologists are stepping up to provide cheaper, more streamlined methods of patient monitoring and diagnosis. Some of the latest inventions to hit the market are sleek and consumer-friendly, like the Fitbit One self-tracker, while others, mainly the Korean-made diaper-sniffing robot, are boldly going where no nurse ever wants to go again. Here are 5 crazily intelligent medical devices on the market.
The next time you visit a hospital, don’t be surprised if you ask, “Is there a doctor in the house?” only to hear a response from an iPad-wielding robot on wheels. InTouch Health is one company that has developed a robot capable of providing remote access between doctors and patients via wireless Internet communication. Although it is not intended to replace human practitioners, the robot, called VITA, is able to perform some tasks autonomously depending on its programming. The VITA also only vaguely resembles a human being, with two “eye sockets” that operate as laser pointers and a “head” monitor which displays the person on the other end of the teleconference. The VITA currently does not have arms, so don’t expect it to give you a comforting hug or a not-so-comforting flu shot.
There are benefits to having robotic patients as well as robotic doctors; namely, they won’t sue you for malpractice. Veterinary school patients are the latest group reaping the benefits of robotic technology with the introduction of Robo-Pets. During simulation exercises, students can gather data from Robo-Fluffy, a dog robot, and then determine treatment. Robo-pets are currently used to read basic vital signs, but developers are adding more complex features like realistic joints, a soft abdomen, and more catheter locations. No news yet on whether they’ll add dog slobber and flatulence
3. Your Coffee Maker
The microwave beeps when your food is ready, so why can’t your coffee maker tell you when dementia is on the menu? By installing motion sensors in objects used routinely, such as pill containers and phones, minute signs of deterioration caused by tremors can be detected and monitored. One of the main problems with diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s is early detection; typical approaches involve periodic visits from occupational therapists, but this method often falls short. Through the constant tracking of daily movements, caregivers can more accurately and more quickly respond to elderly patients in the early stages of decline.
4. Fitbit One
Self-tracking devices abound in the U.S. market, but the smartest one is called, appropriately, the One by Fitbit. With a Fitbit One clipped to your pocket, you can count the number of steps you take, burned calories, consumed calories, and stairs climbed. In the sleep department, you can track how long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up in the night, and how long you sleep overall. All your data uploads to an online account where you can set personal goals and stay motivated with other Fitbit One owners. This device is not only smart, but empathetic as well – it has a screen that displays motivational statements. Owning a Fitbit One is like having a personal trainer and nutritionist in your pocket, and it’s only $100!
5. KIRO-M5 (aka The Diaper Doc)
The hospitalized elderly in Japan and Korea receive frequent visits from the KIRO-M5, a roaming robot that performs some essential duties to relieve hospital staff. Instead of attending a slew of medical schools, this able bodied ‘bot earned its credentials from the Korea Institute of Robot and Convergence in 2011 and has been performing successfully at nursing homes ever since. This multi-purpose device tells patients when to wake up and eat, has handles to be used as a walker, and is equipped with a camera so nurses can do rounds without leaving their stations. Most notably, though, the KIRO-M5 sniffs the air around patients and alerts staff when a diaper change is necessary. Until adult diapers become robotic, this technology will have to suffice.
Renee Floyd is a visual artist, freelance writer and Silicon Valley native. She enjoys covering topics in the fields of business, technology, and education. Most notably, Renee has been writing about college med assistant programs and other health care training courses.