Operating within the healthcare sector, we take for granted the decades of work that make delivering care today possible – but are we also guilty of missing out on healthcare revelations as they are happening.
Technology moves so fast that it’s hard to keep up with. I am a technophile though – as a designer this has been bred into me – and since moving to work in this sector, I have amassed a new appreciation for the trials of those actually delivering care. As the ‘techy’ still resides in me, I thought I would share a short list of 2013’s most amazing technological developments, likely to change the way care is administered in the next ten years…
New Scientist reports that a California-based firm has managed to successfully produce the first 3D printed organs. Initially they have been made on a micro scale, but the ultimate goal is to create human-sized organs to relieve the pressure on organ donation. This tech is particularly advantageous because the new organ can be ‘printed’ using flesh grown from your own DNA – eliminating the chance of your body rejecting it after surgery.
Wound stasis foam
US military agency DARPA has developed a solution to lessen damage from hemorrhaging on the battlefield. Internal bleeding from a severe trauma can be controlled by injecting chemical foam into the chest cavity, sealing the internal wound and stopping the type of bleeding that can’t be compressed – providing time for safe transport to surgery. So what is the relevance in general healthcare? The same technology can be carried by regular paramedics to save the lives of road accident victims.
Varstiff – immobilization tech
Varstiff is a soft, malleable material, it can be molded to any shape – but turns rock hard when a vacuum is briefly applied to it. It is being developed to immobilize parts of the body after a trauma. Take someone injured from a bad fall for example. They might have a shattered ankle that needs to be held in place – or worse they might have jolted their neck and have possible spinal damage. This tech can hold the sufferer in the optimum position, filling in until further examination can be made.
Implant firm ‘Second Sight’ have developed the first bionic eye to be approved for patients in the US. The amazing feat of technology can restore basic vision to patients who were completely blind as the result of degenerative eye diseases. A camera sends signals wirelessly to an implant inside the human eye. The technology has a long way to come before competing with natural vision, but has allowed many people to live more independently by restoring their mobility.
Brain chips – the simpler explanation! These are devices that are planted into the brain to monitor mental functions. The immediate use of this technology is in remedying epilepsy. The chips learn about the abnormalities during a fit, and can be used to alleviate the symptoms in the future. This tech is particularly exciting as it could hold the key to reversing paralysis and could even allow a person to control their own electronic prosthesis… with their thoughts!
Some of these eye-openers are still a little ‘blue-sky thinking’ – but all of them show incredible promise in their fields. To me, it demonstrates that though there may be many frustrations with IT and technology in healthcare, there is huge potential for it to facilitate the delivery of care in the future.