University of Florida and IBM researchers have come out with a device that could well ease the burden off doctors, or at least, some of it.
These 'intelligent' devices relay health information to doctors and family , by text message or e-mail to consumer electronic gadgets such as a mobile phone or PC. This would include a patient's health information such as blood pressure, temperature or respiration. According to the inventors, this information could also help share real-time information about a person's health or well being with loved ones, who are not around.
"We call it quality-of-life engineering," says Sumi Helal, professor of computer engineering and the project's lead UF researcher. "It's really a change of mindset", she adds.
The technology would read vital signs the moment a person steps into his or her house, and then, immediately and automatically, transmit it to health care providers, friends or family members.
The researchers hope the technology will make it easier for companies to manufacture and sell smart networked devices. The software is based on "open standards," which means its specifications are publicly available and useable by anyone.
Helal has devoted the past several years to developing smart devices for the elderly in a model home known as the "Gator Tech Smart Home" in Gainesville, Florida. The home includes a microwave that automatically determines the cooking time and sodium content of a frozen meal, as well as an instrument that measures how many steps a person takes, and shares the information with people outside of the home.
Yet, the problem with these devices is that they require a team of engineers to install them. In the era of cell phone and PDAs, the researchers decided to develop a technology that requires little more than a household power outlet.
"We decided to create a technology that self-integrates," Helal explains. "When you bring it into the house and plug it in, it automatically provides its service and finds a path to the outside world."
The technology could also be applied in other medical settings, such as emergency rooms, where it could monitor vital signs of people in the waiting rooms, allowing doctors to determine who needs to be seen first.