A consultation with a doctor is widely imagined to be a very private affair; most take place behind a closed door, or a line of curtain. Patient confidentiality has also been considered the responsibility of the doctor since Hippocrates, but now, the ability to share information beyond a single doctor is often essential to provide continued treatment. Whether it is used to ensure a prescription can be picked up from a new location or to access life-saving expertise, this new pooling of patient data also poses an increased risk of loss, theft, or manipulation – making its security paramount. This article explores the interplay between cybersecurity with the healthcare sector, particularly in regards to medical trackers within the Internet of Things (IoT).
“And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets..”
– from the Hippocratic Oath, the earliest expression of medical ethics in the Western world
As we discussed earlier this month in our ‘State of Engineering’ highlight, healthcare engineering is fast becoming a multifaceted, multidisciplinary hub of innovation that encompasses wearable technology and smart equipment through to digital medicines and biopharmaceuticals. Throughout the month we’ve featured innovations such as smart wardrobes and bespoke rehabilitation systems, explored future trends in biomedical engineering, and discussed the interplay between healthcare and cybersecurity. However, additional to the day-to-day improvements to patient Quality of Life (QoL) afforded by these new technologies, another key focus of contemporary medical research lies in investigating new, more effective ways to combat diseases and health conditions, such as cancer. As such, we are turning to look at recent innovations in cancer therapy, examining a development by QEPrize donor company Hitachi that produces excellent results while limiting patient discomfort.
A pilot study at Stanford university has recently demonstrated that their AI-powered wearable therapy, Superpower Glass, can help to develop social skills in children with autism by identifying facial expressions and ‘gamifying’ social interaction. We spoke with the study’s senior author, Professor Dennis Wall, to learn more about the technology and its potential.
Compression therapy is a standard form of treatment for patients who suffer from venous ulcers and other conditions in which veins struggle to return blood from the lower extremities. Compression stockings and bandages, wrapped tightly around the affected limb, can help to stimulate blood flow. But there is currently no clear way to gauge whether a bandage is applying an optimal pressure for a given condition.
Now engineers at MIT have developed pressure-sensing photonic fibers that they have woven into a typical compression bandage. As the bandage is stretched, the fibers change color. Using a color chart, a caregiver can stretch a bandage until it matches the color for a desired pressure, before, say, wrapping it around a patient’s leg.
The photonic fibers can then serve as a continuous pressure sensor — if their color changes, caregivers or patients can use the color chart to determine whether and to what degree the bandage needs loosening or tightening.
NYU-X, housed in NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, empowers departments and centres from across the university and with external collaborators to advance a new generation of transdisciplinary research with broad societal impact. NYU-X provides an environment where anyone can: learn to become citizen scientists, designers, and entrepreneurs; explore new technologies to create prototypes and simulations; visualize data patterns and relationships; interact in virtual worlds; and ask the profound questions that push the boundaries of what is known, and what is possible. We invited them to talk with us about their recent DRESS prototype, which helps people living with dementia by guiding them as they get dressed.
QEPrize winner Dr Robert Langer has recently been selected as one of the five 2018 US Science Envoys. In his new position, he will focus on novel approaches in biomaterials, drug delivery systems, nanotechnology, tissue engineering, and the U.S. approach to research commercialization.
Science envoys are critical to strengthening bilateral science and technology relationships in the US, engaging with international audiences at all levels, and advancing policy objectives — such as increasing the number of women in science and advocating for science-based decision making.
Dr Langer was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for his revolutionary advances and leadership in engineering at the interface with chemistry and medicine. The technologies that his lab created have improved the lives of over two billion people around the world.
Given his recent appointment, we asked Dr Langer for his opinion of the top five areas in biomedical engineering ‘to watch’, as well as his thoughts on the potential for international collaboration.
Perceptions of what healthcare engineering ‘is’ are often confined to the end products of research and innovation found in hospitals. In reality, the field encompasses a breadth of research and technology that assist people in various ways at various times. An example of this is MUJO, a new ‘connected healthcare’ company providing focused rehabilitation of the major body joints. The Multiple Joint Fitness Systems, or MU.JO, combine smart exercise devices and cloud analytics to bring data-driven treatment to users.
Healthcare engineering is an exciting space to be working right now. The medtech industry has monumental year-on-year growth, the work that feeds into healthcare represents the vast majority of engineering innovation, and the industry epitomises the intersection of technology with human experience. On top of this, not only do innovations in the sector revolutionise the lives of patients, clinicians, and researchers, but a variety of new technologies from other fields are now finding their way into the industry as well.
Healthcare is a hub of multidisciplinary innovation, fusing cutting-edge sector technologies with innovative technologies from outside it. This fusion – in combination with the ever-reducing cost of technology – has led to a new wave of bespoke, low-cost applications that act to reduce the various barriers to effective healthcare.