We mentioned before how critical and important security and reliability of IoT applications is when it involves life. Driving a car involves your life. If something goes wrong, people can die. But I want you to focus on another aspect of IoT applications, the one involved in medicine.
Can you imagine the world where medicine is without technology? How would doctors deal with a viral contamination such as a new flu or the Ebola virus for example? It would be a disaster. Sending letters and people all over the country and the world. Even with the phone, the response would be too slow. Surely Iota is going to bring a radical change in the future of medicine, but what did Information Technology (IT) bring to medicine up until now? We can consider IT as a driving force behind the innovation and improvement of healthcare. The University of Chicago In Illinois (UIC) list three ways of how big of an impact technology had on the life of people (Healthinformatics.uic.edu, 2016):
- The embrace of IT in medicine granted more channels of research and exploration to make healthcare more effective, increasing accessibility of treatment for common people.
- The continuous improvement of Care and Efficiency using information technology rendered medicine more secure and reliable. Use of mobile devices directly on the field, gave the opportunity to medical personnel to collect, share and retrieve information in real time.
- And finally, the creation of specific software programs, such as the one used by the World Health Organisation that created the possibility to classify causes and symptoms of illnesses, and share it with the entire world.
But how did all start?
At the begin IT entered the world of medicine just with word-processing applications and database management, helping in the basic administration of mundane processes. That is understandable, given the incredible amount of data that hospital and doctor collect daily (personal and billing information for example). But it is in the early 90’s that we start to see the application of data sharing concepts and the development of integrated information systems. The world of medicine moved from paper record to digitalisation, and the proliferation of the Internet simplified the storage and transmission of medical data (Agius-Muscat, 2000).
Since then, IT never stopped growing, enveloping all fields of medicine to provide better healthcare. Remarkable is the view of Steven Kotler (Kotler, 2013) of technology in medicine, defining it as a “hope” for people waiting for treatment that does not exist yet. Kotler attended in 2013, the Strategic Relations for Singularity University and Founding Executive Producer for Exponential Medicine (formerly FutureMed) and listed in his article for Forbes some technologies that were advancing at an incredible speed and have the potential to renovate the concept of healthcare. Among the list: 3-D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, Brain-Computer Interfaces, Robotics and a device that gets its name from Star Trek’s Tricorder. While the first four were already used 3 years ago, the Tricorder was just a vision that the XPRIZE Tricorder Challenge intended to incentivised with a prize of $10 million. The idea is taken, just like the name, from the hand-held electronic device seen in Star Trek.
The idea for this device is to empower patient diagnostic, analysing data, identifying possible abnormalities, and transmit that to a doctor that eventually would treat the patient remotely, if needed. As for now, the competition is at its final stage and the last ceremony will be held early in 2017 announcing the winner. The winning device will be expected to capture key health metrics (temperature, heart rate, etc.) and diagnose 13 health conditions (12 diseases and the absence of condition) (Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, 2016). Very fascinating. And what if that could be made as a chip implanted under your skin that monitors you constantly? No way, that’s too futuristic, even beyond Star Trek’s imagination… or not?
Have a look at our post called Internet of Things for Medical Devices – Part 1: Today and you will realise that we may be not that far off.
Healthinformatics.uic.edu. (2016). 3 Ways Technology has Changed Healthcare | University of Illinois at Chicago. [online] Available at: http://healthinformatics.uic.edu/resources/articles/3-ways-technology-has-changed-healthcare/ [Accessed 15 Nov. 2016].
Agius-Muscat, H. (2000). The impact of information technology on medicine. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3232478/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2016].
Kotler, S. (2013). Forbes Welcome. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenkotler/2013/12/19/5-medical-technologies-revolutionizing-healthcare/#6d65b1ff1f2f [Accessed 22 Nov. 2016].
Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. (2016). Overview. [online] Available at: http://tricorder.xprize.org/about/overview [Accessed 24 Nov. 2016].