Five hot trends in healthcare technologies

From tele-medicine to bio-robots, there are five hot spots to watch where medicine and electronics come together to have the greatest impact on lives, according to chair of the IEEE emerging technology committee.

The pace at which medicine and technology are converging is faster than most people realize. Today, point-of-care health technologies like tele-medicine and medical robots performing surgery in hospitals are commonplace.  Apple iPads and other mobile devices have made their way into the exam room, and electronic medical record (EMR) vendors are following suit with compatible applications.

Credit: NJIT

Professor Atam Dhawan Credit: NJIT

To find out what's next, just ask New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Distinguished Professor Atam Dhawan, an electrical engineer and chair of the the IEEE emerging technology committee. He is also workshop chair for the upcoming 33rd IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) Annual International Conference scheduled for late August in Boston.

"Our goal is to investigate which biological and biomedical engineering technologies are likely to become important within the next decade," Dhawan said in a university release. "For many people, a healthier tomorrow lies in advancements ranging from biomarkers for early diagnosis and monitoring to neural system engineering."

The following are Dhawan's five areas where medicine and electronics come together to have the greatest impact on lives:

  1. Point of care technologies - Ranging from health monitoring to tele-medicine, all point of health care solutions depend on patients connecting with healthcare professionals via computers. Treating people this way can be beneficial both as a great cost savings but also from a quality standpoint. Nursing engineering is fast becoming a career of the future. So too are health monitoring, e-health, and health care information management for disaster situations.
  2. Optical imaging - Optical imaging technologies will find greater use for diagnosing and staging of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other fibrotic diseases. Current molecular imaging research focuses on the discovery and exploration of naturally existing molecular targets of diseases. It also focuses on novel approaches to exploit differences associated with the molecular targets between normal and diseased states, diagnosis and treatment.
  3. Neuroscience - Fast-emerging technological advances in bioelectronics, bio-nano-sensor technology and neural engineering have created exciting advancements in several areas of neuroscience. Advanced technological developments are critical for addressing the challenges of improving basic knowledge of the nervous system, neurophysiology and neurological disorders and to develop devices to interface with neural tissues.
  4. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine - The advent of stem cell-based therapies has brought regenerative medicine into an increased focus as part of the modern medicine practice. Gene therapy will also play a greater role in this new world.
  5. Robots - Patients will see more medical or bio-robots becoming an important part of their care. "These robots will develop novel nano micro and macro devices to assist in diagnosis, surgery, prosthetics, rehabilitation and personal assistance," said Dhawan. "Clinical, therapeutic and surgical applications of medical robots with advanced instrumentation, sensors, actuators and real-time systems could make a revolutionary impact in medicine and health care."

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