Arthur Renowitzky can’t help but command attention as he walks down the street on a sunny autumn morning.
A driver lowers her window to flash a smile and a thumbs-up. “You got this,” she says. A neighbor waves from his front yard. “Go get ’em A.R.”
Renowitzky has been paralyzed since 2007 after being shot in the chest for $20 and a fake gold chain. But he can stand and walk, using crutches for balance, when wearing an exoskeleton suit with motorized hips and knees powering his movements.
Wearable robots aren’t new. DARPA has been funding their development since the early 2000s with the aim of building motorized armor to enhance soldiers’ strength and endurance. Panasonic, Ekso Bionics and others offer upper-body suits that help construction and factory workers lift heavy loads. But their most powerful promise may be in helping people regain control of their bodies.
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When someone goes into cardiac arrest, survival depends on how quickly the heart can be restarted. Enter Amazon’s Echo, a voice-driven computer that answers to the name of Alexa, which can recite life-saving instructions about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a skill taught to it by the American Heart Association. Alexa is accumulating other health-care skills, too, including acting as a companion for the elderly and answering questions about children’s illnesses. In the near future she will probably help doctors with grubby hands to take notes and to request scans, as well as remind patients to take their pills.
Alexa is one manifestation of a drive to disrupt an industry that has so far largely failed to deliver on the potential of digital information. Health care is over-regulated and expensive to innovate in, and has a history of failing to implement ambitious IT projects. But the momentum towards a digital future is gathering pace. Investment into digital health care has soared.
Image Credit: Dave Simonds
Say the term ‘power suit’ and most people think of bold corporate attire. But the expression takes on new meaning when it refers to a powered “exoskeleton,” like Ellen Ripley’s power loader in “Aliens,” or Iron Man’s armor from the Marvel films and comic books.
Until a few years ago, such exoskeletons — metal frameworks fitted with motorized “muscles” that can multiply the wearers’ strength far beyond that of normal humans — were entirely fictional. The only real-world exoskeletons were the natural external coverings of animals such as beetles and crabs; protective outer structures that provide a stiff frame upon which their muscles can push against to move their bodies around.
By Steven Ashley | NBC News
Image Credit: U.S. Bionics
Researchers at IBM have developed a hub for wearables that can gather information from multiple wearable devices and share it with a doctor, potentially cutting down on the time patients need to spend in a hospital.
The gadget, which IBM has dubbed a ‘cognitive hypervisor,’ funnels data from devices such as smart watches and fitness bands into the IBM Cloud. There, it’s analyzed and the results are shared with the user and their doctor.
The idea is that patients can be monitored reliably through the device so they can be sent home to recover from illnesses a day or two earlier than they might otherwise have been allowed. It also means that should a problem develop, a doctor can be alerted immediately and an ambulance dispatched if it’s serious enough.
Image Credit: Magdalena Petrova
Figuring out what is causing an irregular heartbeat typically means an invasive procedure: most often, electrophysiologists insert a catheter to the heart via an artery or vein to get a cardiac “map” and identify the origin of the arrhythmia. But a new device from Medtronic takes the process outside, in the form of a sensor-enabled vest.
Dubbed the CardioInsight Noninvasive 3D Mapping System, the single-use, disposable wearable received FDA 510(k) clearance last week, following a predecessor system that was used in more than 1,600 patients. In addition to having the benefit of being non-invasive, the vest may also give physicians more insights, as it can be worn long enough to catch transient arrhythmias that could otherwise be missed on a one-time ECG test.
Image Credit: Medtronic
Robots are the new usurpers. There is a consensus that sly animatronics are coming for all of our jobs, no matter how skilled. First stop, self-service checkouts; next, world domination.
We could oppose the movement with the tenacity of entrenched Luddites or learn to co-operate with our robot overlords. There is a growing trade in technology that aids the treatment and diagnosis of illness — and doctors are eager to implement the innovations in the operating room. That means you could be diagnosed by wearable tech and have medicine prescribed by an app, all without waiting to see a doctor. It is potentially very significant for the overstretched NHS.
The latest intel comes from Stanford University, which found last month that wearables can be used to detect when you are about to fall ill. Using data collected from volunteers wearing smartwatches, researchers found the tracking devices could detect early signs of illness: unusually high heart rates and higher skin temperature can prefigure the obvious symptoms of an infection or cold. The team now plans to build algorithms to make predictions more sophisticated and allow users to change their behaviour in order to preclude full-blown illness.
Image Credit: Standard (UK)
As consumers, we enjoy so many options that give us more control over almost every aspect of our lives: We order carry-out and rides from our phones and watch TV shows and movies online whenever we please. We chat virtually with friends and family around the globe. Of course, major cloud-based infrastructure makes all those services possible.
And within the past 10 years, we’ve watched eagerly as the cloud has proved to be a boon to medicine, helping hospitals and providers become more effective and efficient while increasing patient engagement and satisfaction.
There’s no going back: The future of healthcare IT is in the cloud. As more and more older, legacy software systems shift to cloud-based services, even the newest healthcare apps are being developed for cloud use only.