Healthcare moves closer to 'sci-fi dream'

In the "Star Trek" television series, Dr. McCoy could identify numerous illnesses by scanning patients with his tricorder, and although healthcare hasn't reached that level of technology, they are making strides toward it, NJBiz reported Nov. 13.

"Advances in medical technology have brought us closer to realizing this sci-fi dream,"  Naveena Yanamala, PhD, director of the Center of Innovation at New Brunswick, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, told the publication. "Dr. McCoy's tricorder could instantly capture vital signs and provide rapid diagnoses. Today, wearable devices and remote health monitoring systems have made significant progress in monitoring vital signs. Smartwatches and fitness trackers track heart rate, blood pressure, and detect irregular heart rhythms. Some can even monitor oxygen levels and ECG data, albeit not as sophisticated as Dr. McCoy's tricorder."

Technology advances are also driving change at healthcare facilities.

Ridgewood, N.J.-based Valley Health System is designing a new "smart hospital" that utilizes AI, smart beds and real-time location systems.

As part of the "smart hospital" concept, Valley Health System will implement Inspiren's AUGi platform in each patient room. This technology utilizes a combination of a hybrid sensor, AI, computer vision, a smartphone application, an integrated smart lanyard and Bluetooth low energy. AUGi monitors patient behavior and predicts bed or chair exits.

The system also allows for a "live view" option, enabling nurses to check on patients and coordinate responses.

Additionally, the real-time location system integration will ensure that when a Valley care team member enters a patient's room, their information, including name, title and ID photo, appears on a 75-inch digital footwall monitor. The system is linked to the EHR, providing clinicians with real-time patient locations, even when not in the patient room. 

"We are not quite at a 'Star Trek'-style tricorder stage yet, but medical technology is moving at a rapid pace," Kash Patel, executive vice president and chief information and digital engagement officer at Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health, told the publication. 

Mr. Patel highlighted that gadgets such as the Apple Watch, equipped with advanced technology for monitoring heart rate and various health metrics, exemplify the convergence of medicine and technology.

He also pointed out the current capability to embed sensors in clothing for real-time blood pressure measurement, a concept that was nonexistent just two decades ago. 

Looking ahead, Mr. Patel suggested that with the rapid evolution of such technologies, tricorder-like devices could become a reality in the next 20 years.

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