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Great medical advances don’t have to be sexy
By Dave Saunders, VP Product Development, Corocent Medical
I’m always glad to see medical device innovation swinging for the fences, but not every medical device needs to be replaced with a cybernetic, super-enhanced, whizbang, state-of-the-art-engineered gadget. Not everyone needs a new app-enabled wearable or a robot surgeon for their medical care. Today, millions of people benefit every day from simple advances in medical devices which may not be as sexy as a surgical robot that can carve a replica of Michelangelo’s David into the end of your femur, but still bring huge benefits to the medical industry, from patient to practitioner. Here’s just a sample of devices doctors and nurses have mentioned as their favorite new advances to come onto the scene.
Medicine is prescribed and dispensed day in and day out at every hospital. Incorrectly administering drugs has disastrous effects. With the number of people moving through the medical system and the amount of prescriptions tendered, even a small percentage of error translates into big numbers of people affected. The simple solution is using one of the new automated medicine dispensing systems. These require the patient be scanned for positive identification. The prescription is verified and can be checked against other known medications to help ensure a potential interaction isn’t about to occur and the patient record can automatically be updated by systems that are integrated with the hospital EMR.
Medicine scanners are one of the beneficial side effects of improved hospital data management. Adding a medication to a patient’s chart or looking it up from a record is nothing new, but when these tasks are managed separately, mistakes can be made and drug interactions can be introduced as data and record updates lag behind the care being given to the patient. All records should be kept up to date in real time through the hospital EMR system. Barcodes and laser scanners certainly aren’t cutting-edge technology but seamlessly integrating their use into patient management should be seen as a cornerstone of managing big data in hospitals today.
This is a great example of the technology solu- tion that enhances the existing training and skill of a practitioner. Put simply, it makes it easier to find a vein when placing a needle. Depending on the patient this can be more difficult than one might think. Practitioners are trained to find even the most elusive of veins, but it can still be difficult depending on the health of the patient. The venous Doppler takes the guesswork out of finding a good vein and helps ensure that fewer attempts are necessary in order to care for the patient.
Technology-wise, the venous Doppler employs some sophisticated imaging technology. Perhaps it’s not as advanced as a bionic contact lens but in the right hands it provides the right kind of vision for people who need it the most. This device doesn’t replace existing training and skills, but enhances them to allow the practitioner to focus on caring for the patient.
RAPID LAB TESTS
With the rising incidence of hospital infections, accurate and rapid testing of patients for serious infections can be the difference between life and death. Rapid testing can stop disease in its tracks while saving time and money. You name the infectious disease and you can be sure that it’s probably better to get a rapid and accurate assessment than it is to wait days or weeks on the lab. Rapid insight into illness improves diagnosis and ensures the best possible patient care.
Monitoring of the patient’s vitals can be a very important source of lifesaving data in the hospital. With all of those wires, the patient is “tied to the bed” which can be an inconvenience and can even slow healing and recovery processes. Increased ambulation for a patient can help them be more alert, more independent, require less nursing assistance and improve patient mood. It may even mean fewer bedpans to clean if the patient can get up and go to the bathroom for themselves. Wireless telemetry devices typically use rechargeable batteries, and wirelessly transmit monitoring data to a nearby base station. When you think about what goes into a device like this, there isn’t any earth shattering technology to taking something big and making it smaller and battery-operated. Remember the Walkman? But like so many portable devices, these sorts of advances can provide big benefits even though they’re harder to see.
HONORABLE MENTION: THE HOSPITAL BED
The hospital bed itself has undergone many changes over the years. They may not seem like much but a hospital bed is way more than a mere alternative for sitting on the floor. The mattresses have been changed to air mattresses in an attempt to prevent bed sores. The air mattress has been modified further to allow the pressure to be changed on one side or the other, effectively “rolling” the patient to prevent too much pressure on one side at a time. Some beds have sophisticated raising and lowering systems, contoured support, elevation and drop-away areas depending on patient need; all in an effort to improve patient care through improved support.