Tag Archives: medical devices

The Future of Medical Technology: How Augmented Reality is Already Changing Things

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Advances in modern technology are already changing the medical field in ways that, just a few years ago, would have seemed like really out-there science fiction. The sort of stuff you would have seen on a network TV series, or read about in a pulp novel that was just a few years over the horizon. Perhaps one of the most interesting changes we’re seeing, though, is an increased use of augmented reality that allows medical professionals to better diagnose patients’ problems, and to make more precise incisions during surgery.

What is Augmented Reality?

Speaking of science-fiction language, augmented reality is still a concept that’s new enough for more of us that it sounds like something made-up. Chances are good, though, that you’ve already experienced this technology for yourself. According to Merriam-Webster, augmented reality is when you use technology to overlay an image when you’re viewing something through a device.

That can still seem a little esoteric, though, which is why Pokemon Go and other similar smartphone games are ideal introductions to the idea of augmented reality. By holding up your smartphone or tablet, you view the world around you, and the game overlays an image of the adorable little monster you’re trying to catch. It isn’t there, of course, but the device you’re playing the game through overlays the image of the little creature onto the picture of the world around you, showing you roughly where it would be.

How Can Augmented Reality Help in The Medical Field?

While a technology used in video games might not sound like a medical breakthrough, augmented reality has serious potential. This is true both for people who can use it to help control their medical conditions, as well as for doctors, nurses, and those who provide medical care.

For example, Medical Futurist mentions that it’s possible we could make special contact lenses that could read someone’s current glucose level from their tears. These contact lenses would flash a small image, allowing a diabetic to know what their blood sugar levels look like without ever needing to prick their fingers and do a swab ever again. The sheer amount of energy, not to mention discomfort and frustration, such a product could save cannot be overstated.

And that’s far from the only use for augmented reality when it comes to how it could improve people’s lives. A simple eyepiece or tablet that could scan someone’s arm, showing exactly where their veins are, would make drawing or donating blood a snap and avoid all kinds of problems. Similar scans that can show a bone beneath the skin, but which could then be rotated would allow doctors to see in real-time what’s going on inside of their patients. Even surgeons could use devices like this to get a real-time view of what’s happening inside organs, or beneath the skin, allowing them to pick the best spot to make an incision.

In short, augmented reality would allow us to see things we normally can’t, and to do so in such a way that it’s as seamless as glancing at a screen. In a very real way, it creates a personalized kind of heads up display that can feel a little bit like making life into a video game… in the best possible way.

Would You Like To Know More?

While impressive, augmented reality is far from the only major technology that’s changing the way the medical field operates. If you’re working on the latest developments in medical technology, we’re here to help! Reach out to any one of our technology specialists to match you with the tools you need.

Standardized USB Devices for the Medical Industry

USB devices have long had a reputation for simple plug-and-play connections. As more and more of these devices are deployed to people’s homes or they wear them everywhere, this is an increasingly valuable feature. People want to hook them up and use them without the help of a computer expert. They want to be confident that the gadgets which monitor their health will keep working reliably.

Using a USB connector is a good first step, but it’s not the whole picture. The software which accepts data from the devices needs to understand it. Widely accepted standards for USB medical devices make achieving this goal possible A device that complies can work with software from multiple vendors, and patients and medical professionals can use the applications that best meet their needs.

USB for the End-User

Personal health devices (PHDs) aren’t just found in hospitals and medical offices anymore. They’re increasingly available to patients wherever they are for ongoing monitoring of their status. Diabetics and people with high blood pressure can catch abnormal readings and take action in time to avoid a crisis.

The physical interfaces for PHDs include wireless, USB, Thunderbolt, and others. USB offers the advantages of high speed and ease of connection. Most desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones offer a USB connection. It’s more reliable than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Inexperienced users can make mistakes that compromise the security of wireless connections, but a USB cable is a safe data conduit. Newer versions of USB are backward compatible with old ones. The current standard is USB 3.1, and a still faster USB 4 is expected to appear this year.

Standardization at the Data Level

Medical devices deal in specialized data, and they need a high level of reliability without room for misinterpretation. Every device sends data using a particular format and data model. The software needs to understand them in order to do anything with the data.

Much of the industry has adopted the IEEE 11073 family of standards to maximize interoperability. It provides a framework for data which is independent of the transport mechanism. The standards define roles for agents, which are devices that collect and transmit data, and managers, which receive and process it and may direct the agents. The standards include specializations for different kinds of agents, such as heart rate monitors and thermometers. Each specialization has its own data model.

Conformance to IEEE 11073 greatly simplifies the job of connecting a PHD and using its data. Applications which understand a device’s specialization will be able to ingest its data, give reports, and issue alerts with few difficulties. Adherence to these standards is a sign that the manufacturer takes the product seriously for medical purposes.

The Medical Applications USB Stack

In between the data model and the physical connection are many protocol details. The USB standards include the Personal Healthcare Device Class, which is supported in the application rather than the operating system’s USB driver.

The Continua Alliance, a consortium recommending standards for medical systems, has endorsed the Medical Applications USB Stack. This implementation brings together the standards at the application and USB levels. Application writers don’t have to deal with the low-level issues, so they can focus on the user experience and data management.

When people’s health is at stake, it’s important for devices to “just work.” The availability of these standards lets medical professionals confidently recommend devices and software that work well together. Compliant USB devices are easy to configure, work reliably, and are compatible with a growing body of software.

Coolgear offers state-of-the-art USB medical devices that earn patients’ confidence. Contact us to find out more.