Tag Archives: medical usb

The Future of Medical Technology: Holographic Data Input Will Change Everything

Data entry is one of the biggest aspects of the medical industry that no one thinks about. However, every piece of information that you provide, from your name and address, to your blood pressure and heart rate, needs to be recorded and filed away. While old school clinics still keep paper records, most of the forms you see filled out are also entered into a computer system in order to create digital copies as well. However, even healthcare professionals who consider themselves on the cutting edge of technology still use keyboards and tablets to input their patients’ data into their digital system.

In the future, though, it’s possible that we won’t need keyboards and tablet computers to input data. It’s even possible that we won’t need screens to view that data. We’ll just need a flat surface, and a tiny projector to show us everything we want to see.

Are Holograms The Way of The Future?

Holograms are by no means a new idea. Generally speaking, a hologram is when a projector scatters light so that it creates the illusion of a 3D object. And, according to The Medical Futurist, these holograms might be the way of the future when it comes to inputting the data that we need in our files.

How does a projected image allow you to input data, though?

Well, holographic keyboards already exist, and the technology is fairly simple. The projector puts an image of a keyboard on a flat surface (a wall, a table, etc.), and when you break the light beams it registers that the same way it would you pushing down a key on a traditional keyboard. This sends a signal to the computer (if the projector is attached to a machine like a traditional keyboard would be), and the keys you “press” show up on the screen.

That’s something we can do right now. In fact, holographic keyboards are something of a relatively cheap, niche item thought of as little more than a curiosity. But the potential they represent is huge when it comes to future possibilities. After all, the projectors take up practically no room, so they save a lot of space in often cramped environments. They don’t gather dust or germs like traditional keyboards, so keeping the area clean is a breeze. Best of all, these projectors are small enough they can travel in a pocket, and be set up nearly anywhere. This allows both the data entry side of the medical field, as well as healthcare professionals, to have the tools they need pretty much anywhere there’s a flat surface to use them on.

What Could Be Coming Next

While the application of holographic data entry tools is impressive, it does beg the question of what we might see in the future from using these constructions of light as technology improves, and projectors become smaller, and even more portable.

Imagine, for a moment, all of the devices that would no longer be necessary in your average clinic, or hospital. All of the keyboards just gone, replaced by tiny projectors that never have to resist the impact of someone’s fingers, and will last significantly longer. But why stop there? What if the screens we see could also be recreated as a projection? Even better, as a three-dimensional projection, allowing us to simply see floating directions, text documents, or even 3D video conferences like something straight out of a sci-fi novel or Marvel movie.

Holograms are already seeing increased use in the medical field. Projectors that can overlay an image of where someone’s veins are so that nurses don’t have to guess are becoming more commonly used for drawing blood, for instance. Projectors can be used to show the condition of broken bones, or other damage done to internal parts of a patient’s body, providing a 3D image of what’s happening, and the problem that doctors face. So it’s entirely possible that, as holograms and projectors become more common tools throughout the medical field, that they might replace everything from wall screens, to keyboards, to tablets; because they just can’t compete with an all-in-one projector.

Are you working on innovative medical technology? Get in touch with our product specialists to help you find the right solutions. Contact us today!

 

USB Safety for the Medical Industry

medical-usb-safety

Medical USB devices are valuable and reliable when they are well made. They can perform specialized monitoring tasks and transmit information to almost any computer. The devices can draw their power from the connector.

USB connections have a high level of compatibility. Devices supporting old versions of the protocol work with the latest computers and drivers, and speedy USB 3.1 devices can fall back on earlier protocol versions when connected to older computers. Connecting Type C ports to Type A is just a matter of getting the right cable or adapter.

The ability to power devices through the cable is often useful. There’s no need for an external power supply to plug in, and there’s no need for batteries that may run out of charge at an inconvenient time.

Safe and Secure Connections

Some people are concerned that USB devices may not be safe enough for medical applications. Any detachable device can be used carelessly, but it’s not the fault of the connection. People have been known to pick up USB thumb drives that were left in parking lots as bait and plug them in. It’s not surprising if that gets them into trouble.

With proper precautions, USB devices are highly safe. The connection is hard-wired, so it doesn’t have the complications and risks of a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. Configuring a wireless connection carelessly can expose data to interception; configuring a USB interface incorrectly results, at worst, in no connection.

Because USB is a widely used protocol with backward compatibility to 2.0 in both directions, devices can easily be moved from one computer to another.

Simple Steps for USB Safety

Any removable device has its risks. Some simple practices will keep these risks to a minimum and ensure reliable use of medical USB devices.

  • Encrypt any local storage on the device, using a strong algorithm. If the device holds patient data for its internal use, be sure to use only devices that can’t yield up that information without authorization. Make it clear to employees that they must never store patient information on unencrypted devices.
  • Don’t allow unauthorized USB devices. This needs to be enforced by policies and training. The only devices that should be connected are ones issued by the organization. Employees should never bring in drives from outside, even if they have cute shapes.
  • Turn off auto-run (also known as auto-play) on all computers that deal with sensitive data. This will reduce the chance of problems if someone inadvertently plugs in a hostile device.
  • Install software that will monitor and log all USB usage on computers that handle personal health information. Inform employees that their usage is being monitored. If any of them plug in unauthorized devices, give them a stern warning.

There are just sensible security precautions, and for the most part, they apply whether your organization uses its own USB devices or not. HIPAA compliance requires keeping personal health information safe, wherever it’s stored.

Use High-Quality Hardware

Computers for medical applications should use trustworthy, reliable hardware, and USB ports and hubs are no exception. Coolgear delivers hubs that will perform consistently in clinical environments where failure is unacceptable.

Cheap devices may break or short out under repeated insertion and removal. The physical connection should be as sturdy as possible. The power capacity should be enough to handle all the devices that will be plugged into the hub. Clinical personnel shouldn’t be afraid of what will happen when they plug in one more device.

Good security practices and good equipment are the keys to the safe and reliable use of USB-connected clinical equipment. Contact us for information on equipment that will satisfy the rigorous needs of the health care industry.

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

sensor-implanted-into-human-eye

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.

The Future of Medical Technology: Gamification and Living Better Lives

Gamification in medical devices

Humans learn through play. Anyone who’s ever watched a group of children knows this, but we often think that games are only for children. That our brains somehow leave play behind when we finish maturing and get regular jobs. However, psychologists have repeatedly told us that one of the best ways for us to keep learning, growing, and to live better lives is to take time for play. It is a necessary component of our lives, and it’s hard-wired into our brains.

This is where the recent gamification craze came from. In short, gamification is when you turn a task into a game so that people want to participate in it, instead of forcing themselves to do it. It works in the workplace, the classroom, and even around the house. And thanks to advances being made in technology, gamification is becoming an ever-larger part of our day-to-day lives.

Changing Your Behavior is Easier When It’s a Game

One of the biggest examples of gamifying behavioral change, according to The Medical Futurist, is the mobile game Pokemon Go. For those who haven’t played it, it’s an augmented reality game where you have to physically go to a location, and use your smartphone to see, target, and catch wandering monsters for you to then make more powerful. This game was a massive success, and it led to thousands of people meeting up at parks, walking through their towns, making new friends, and getting exercise.

Now, that wasn’t the express purpose of the game (which was likely made the way it was for maximum possible immersion), but the side benefit was that because people were playing a game they engaged in a lot of activities they normally wouldn’t. People often say they want to get out more, make new friends, and exercise, but they rarely do. With the introduction of a gamified element, though, suddenly they couldn’t wait to change their behavior.

This quirk of human psychology, when combined with our ever-advancing technology, has the potential to really help us. As another example, there are apps out there that track your workout regimens, and level you up as if you were a character in a roleplaying game. While it’s useful for tracking your progress at the gym, it’s the idea of earning “experience” points and building up your digital self that keeps a lot of folks pumping iron and pounding the pavement. Even though the reward is purely in the mind, it’s the game that changes that person’s behavior, and gets them to do something healthy they might not otherwise be willing to do. This same tic, if properly catered to, could get us to do everything from eating our vegetables, to taking our medicine.

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What Will The Games of The Future Look Like?

Gamification is a huge bandwagon at the moment, being used for everything from scholastic achievement to corporate training. However, this ability to motivate people isn’t going away any time soon, so the only thing that’s going to change is how technology incorporates our love of the game.

It’s possible, for example, that as our Internet grows even faster that we’ll be able to have fully-immersive virtual games with friends, allowing us greater human connection and enjoyment. Training scenarios could allow for everything from EMT proficiency with car accidents, to police tactical simulations. These simulations could provide us with personal avatars like Iron Man’s Jarvis to help us keep our schedules, making us feel like superheroes. Even something as simple as brushing our teeth or eating healthier could be gamified, with a little creativity on the part of developers.

If you’re working technology that will help us change our lives for the better, contact us today! We have the experience and solutions to help!

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.

USB Technology and Cyber Security Threats: Understanding the Necessities and Dangers Surrounding USB Storage in Medicine and Beyond

Medical USB Technology

The medical industry is drenched in technology. Intricate AI-powered surgery robots and high-tech anesthesia equipment fill surgery rooms, computers and laptops litter nurse stations, and MRI machines and powerful PCs back up teams of expert radiologists. 

At the heart of all of this powerful equipment is a small, often discrete, USB connection.

USB connectors and ports breathe life into all of these devices. They supply protocols for communication between machines, can be used as a power supply for smaller equipment, and are even used to transfer patient files remotely between locations (i.e., thumb drives, external hard drives, etc.). Medical technology relies on USB daily, and USB connections play a critical role in medical IT architecture.

But, all of this USB tech also introduces risk. To be fair, USB technology itself isn’t the risk. USB connections open up gateways for internal threat actors to access confidential patient records. Hospitals struggle with their USB ecosystem. These ports that exist on virtually every piece of medical equipment require forward-thinking and strategic planning to minimize risk.

USB and Risk

According to Verizon’s 2018 Protected Health Information Data Breach Report (PHIDBR), over 55% of ALL security breaches in the medical industry come from inside threat actors. Healthcare is the only industry in which internal actors are the biggest threat to an organization. This makes internal security the single most critical channel of risk prevention. And, USBs rank towards the top-of-the-list when it comes to reducing internal threats.

USB drives that house information are incredibly portable, convenient, and easy-to-use. But, they’re also easy to abuse in the wrong hands. Whether it’s a former employee who wants some form of revenge against your healthcare system, a sophisticated threat actor looking for physical hardware, or merely an unaware employee, someone who accesses a USB drive that hasn’t been secured can easily do damage with the files contained within.

There’s risk anytime you’re dealing with portable drives that carry sensitive information. And, there’s also a risk in any communication protocol between two or more machines. So, what do you do? You have to use USB cables; they’re absolutely necessary in the medical industry. How do hospitals prevent USB security issues?

3 Ways to Reduce USB Security Risks

#1) Zero Trust Security

Originally coined by Forrester Research, Zero Trust security involves baking security into your everyday operations granularly. According to Forbes, 66% of external and internal actors are abusing security privileges in the healthcare industry. Instead of blaming the individual, healthcare needs to discover how it is that over half of their employees are capable of abusing privileges in the first place.

Zero Trust security leverages segmentation and perimeters to ensure that systems, cloud resources, and databases are protected in layers. Part of this involves tracking user access routes, using location services, and certainly monitoring logins. But, it also involves securing the physical resources in a structured manner. Who can check out USB drives? Can they plug them into any system? If so, is that safe? These are the questions you need to be thoroughly examining.

#2) Actively Review USB Activities

Securing your USB assets is one thing, but tracking them is an entirely different monster. But, it may be one of the simplest ways to ensure that data leaks are dealt with accordingly. One way to do this is to use a tracking system paired with something small — like QR codes. Another way is to keep USB data transfer under lock-and-key.

Most hospitals have access to a plethora of USB drives, cables, adapters, and hubs. You need to monitor this equipment and check for any suspicious activities.

#3) Glue Security Education to Onboarding and Beyond

While GI Joe’s tagline “knowing is half the battle” may have been applied to an evil metal-faced villain, it’s instantly applicable to USB security. You can create the best processes, glue expensive and robust security to your IT architecture, and create dynamic role-based access systems; if you aren’t training employees on how to use USB — you’re going to have incidents.

And, training shouldn’t be exclusively an onboarding phenomenon. You need ongoing training. Do your employees understand the roles of USB? Are they aware of how data transfer can impact security? If not, they should be.

Final Thoughts

While USB technology can be used by internal employees to expose your healthcare organization to risk, It’s also a vital part of standardizing the healthcare IT ecosystem. USB cables, drives, hubs, and connectors are the spirit of your equipment. Through the proliferation of USB, connected devices such as medical ID bracelets and other machines, more and more systems will be able to communicate efficiently.

Technically, a USB hub (both external and internal to a computer) should prevent an attacker from stealing data from adjacent USB-connected devices. But that’s not the case in practice.

As it turns out, some USB hubs don’t sufficiently secure the communication lines between USB ports and the computer, an oversight which attackers can exploit to steal sensitive data.

The purpose of medical technology is to aid in the care of patients. With USB standardization, healthcare professionals can bypass many of the roadblocks that keep them from their patients and deliver more optimized care.

In the medical industry, there’s no room for error. You need innovative technology products that are paired with excellent customer support. If you are currently building a device that relies on USB technology, we’re here to help. 

Interested in purchasing superior USB solutions for your healthcare setting? Contact us.