This year we have witnessed amazing innovations in technology with everything from wearable tech like Google Glass or Nike+ to the recent introduction of Coin, one card that stores all your credit cards, debit cards, personal accounts, business accounts and other cards typically filling your wallet. The healthcare industry was no exception to the rise in disruptive technology changing the way people are impacted
What are some of the most influential healthcare technologies you have seen appear this year ?
1) Wearable Technology like Google Glass
Wearable technology is still in its infancy but has already started to have widespread influence across many industries. Dr. Rafael Grossmann was the very first surgeon to use Google Glass or wearable technology in general while performing a surgery. As wearable technology continues to improve to better meet the needs of its users, healthcare providers continue to hope that its use will impact both the experience of patients and practitioners to better receive and administer care. Dr. Grossmann believes that Google Glass and wearable technology of a similar nature will help improve the way healthcare providers interact with patients and a patient’s relatives, increasing the satisfaction of patients and making doctors and other providers more effective at doing their job because of the added level of communication between parties.
He sees this new technology as allowing a doctor to someday interact with a patient, while simultaneously pulling up their medical history using Google Glass. The surgery performed using Google Glass could serve as an example of real-time education for medical students and other professionals alike. There are even telemedicine opportunities with Google Glass as well, allowing doctors and other medical professionals to provide clinical care in certain capacities from a distance. The practice is already in use by doctor’s providing medical advice via the phone or email in many instances across the United States but, it’s the technology that limits how effective this approach can be when it comes to what level of care is able to be administered.
This is so important because according to Grossmann, many don’t survive a medical condition or emergency each year because the right patient needs to be at the right place at the right time and this isn’t often the case since up to 30% of the U.S. population doesn’t live near a trauma center if they happen to live a rural area for example. Grossmann has used Apple’s FaceTime to discuss crucial patient crises as well as virtual examinations with patients in various locations across the country, able to severely impact the outcome of their care. He argues that with the continued adoption of wearable tech like Google Glass, more lives will be saved since communication between medical professionals and patients will continue to improve to the next level.
2) 3D Printed Biological Materials
There have been many widespread uses of 3D printers today from guns to models of the Empire State building, but the medical uses are extremely practical and overtime could really solve ongoing health issues once it’s figured out how to accurately apply them to people.
Here are seven applications of 3D printers in healthcare that could have an important impact in the future:
A new technology has jump-started the technique in neuroscience known as optogenetics where neuro-scientists target a single neuron in the brain of a mouse merely by turning on a light. This is done by using a light activated gene and inserting it into the genome of a mouse to be able to easily identify when the particular neuron is firing in the brain. Optogenetics is a hot topic amongst the medical community today, surrounded by both praise and criticism. Its purpose is to control a brain’s activity with light. This could have far reaching benefits with humans to help better understand the complex network of neurons that make up the brain. A stronger understanding could help humans better grasp how we create thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
Identifying these neurons may sometime help people detect flaws or deformities in the various neurons in the brain that cause devastating mental disorders like schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and depression. By controlling the activity of specific neurons, neuroscientists will begin to learn how each type of neuron contributes to the overall functions of the brain.
The firing of a neuron through lighting may someday be a technique to finding the answers to some of the many open questions mankind has wondered about themselves both medically and physiologically since the dawn of time or this technique may not be able to work with humans due to its invasive nature in its current applications with rats.
Time will tell as to whether this approach is effective, but nevertheless, the study of the human brain using light will help neuro-scientists on the path to better understanding the neurons and how they work across this complex organ.
4) Digestible Sensors
Approved in 2011, digestible sensors will continue to provide healthcare professionals with more information about the human body and how various treatment solutions affect each system of organs. A digestible sensor is a sensor that transmits information about a patient to medical professionals to help them customize the care to the individual as well as the care provided to other individuals experiencing similar health conditions or ailments. This technology would eventually allow an individual to swallow a pill provided by their doctor and skip their physical because the digestible sensors, that look like regular pills, could perform all the same functions a doctor typically handles in a standard physical and then some.
Digestible sensors will monitor your bodily systems and wirelessly transmit what’s happening in your body to another device like your Smartphone or computer for your own review or the review of your doctor. Latest innovations with digestible sensors don’t even require a battery source since they solely rely on the human body as energy.
An innovation of this nature could have far reaching effects for healthcare by helping detect diseases and conditions at earlier stages in people digesting these sensors that are in turn, constantly monitored wirelessly.
5) Microchips Modeling Clinical Trials
The potential to streamline, improve, and perhaps transform the current healthcare system is huge. That’s how microchip modeling clinical trials came into use because there was an open opportunity and a need to innovate on the way clinical trials are conducted. Microchip modeling clinical trials aim to replace the use of animals in clinical trials to more accurately test the safety and efficacy of treatment for human patients and spare the lives of countless animals typically used in testing. These microchips are smaller than a human thumb, can reconstruct the complicated interface between organs and capillaries, which is similar to the idea of micro-fabrication, the process of making structures on a micrometer scale. By eliminating animal models in certain circumstances, scientists and doctors have been able to reconstruct organs like the human lungs by focusing on the use of complicated systems of microchips to emulate these bodily systems.
Every medicine (drug) has an approved generic name. Often, it will also have one or more brand (trade) names. This can sometimes lead to confusion.
What are generic and brand medicines ?
Generic name. Each medicine (drug) has an approved name called the generic name. A group of medicines that have similar actions often have similar-sounding generic names. For example, penicillin, ampicillin, amoxicillin and flucloxacillin are in one group of antibiotics.
Brand name. Many medicines also have one or more brand names. This is chosen by the company that makes it. Several companies may make the same generic medicine, each with their own brand name. The name is often chosen to be memorable for advertising, or to be easier to say or spell than some long generic name! For example, paracetamol is a generic name. There are several companies that make this with brand names such as Panadol®, Calpol®, etc.
The brand name is usually written most clearly on any packaging. However, you will always see the generic name written somewhere on the packet (often in small print). Some medicines only have the generic name on the packet.
The colour, size, shape, etc, of brands of the same medicine may vary depending on which company makes it. Do not be alarmed if your regular medicine seems to have changed colour or shape. It may be that the pharmacist is getting it from a different company, or the doctor has written the prescription in a generic way rather than using a brand name. However, the medicine will be the same if the generic name is the same as before.
Some tablets or pills contain a combination of medicines. Combination products are often marketed and sold with a brand name. However, the individual ingredients (the individual medicines that are combined into the one tablet or pill) will all be listed in small print on the packet. For example, a popular painkiller has a brand name of Solpadeine®. This contains three generic medicines – paracetamol, codeine, and caffeine.
Doctors are encouraged to prescribe by using the generic name. This is because:
The generic name is the one doctors are trained to use. There are sometimes many brand names for one medicine. Possible confusion or mistakes are reduced if all doctors use the same names when talking about and prescribing medicines.
Generic medicines are often cheaper for the NHS. Even for medicines that you can buy, such as paracetamol, there is often a big price difference between brands.
Cheaper does not mean lower quality.
Generic manufacturers are able to sell their products for lower prices because they are not required to repeat the costly clinical trials of new drugs and generally do not pay for costly advertising, marketing, and promotion. In addition, multiple generic companies are often approved to market a single product; this creates competition in the market place, often resulting in lower prices.
FACT: When it comes to price, there is a big difference between generic and brand name drugs. On average, the cost of a generic drug is 80 to 85 percent lower than the brand name product.
We all know how great it feels to have a good laugh, especially with friends whose company you enjoy. While it’s said “laughter is the best medicine,” there are actually scientific studies showing the mechanism of laughing does have positive health benefits to the body. In fact, a new study even shows it can play a role in preventing memory loss.
Laughing releases dopamine and endorphins in our brain, which are chemicals that induce pleasurable feelings.
In an important new research study at Loma Linda University in California, the findings show that humor and laughter may play a role in reducing age-related memory loss. The main focus of the study was the hormone cortisol, which is released when the body experiences stress.
Stress has been proven to have a negative effect on both learning and memory and older adults are particularly susceptible to factors that cause memory loss.
To determine if laughter as a stress reducer might lessen the damage cortisol does to the brain, the research team conducted the study with three groups of seniors, one with diabetes, one without a health issue, and a control group. Two of the test groups were shown a 20-minute humorous video and then given a memory test measuring memory recall, visual recognition, and learning ability. The third group of older adult participants did the test without first watching the video. The cortisol levels of all three group members were evaluated before and after the tests.
The results showed that both groups who had seen the video had a substantial reduction in their cortisol levels when compared to the control group. In addition, the test subjects who saw the video demonstrated more improvement in memory recall and learning ability than the group that didn’t watch the humorous video.
The study co-author Dr. Lee Berk, said “So, indeed, laughter is turning out to be not only a good medicine, but also a memory enhancer adding to our quality of life.”
Are you having a crazy, distracting day? Here is a 15-minute approach to clearing the mind and regaining focus.
Some days just get out of hand. The workload is heavy, and still the emails and calls flood in. The pace can seem frenetic, and the constant interruptions not only disrupt your actions but your thought process as well. You move so fast you feel unproductive and sloppy. By the end of the day, you feel stressed and edgy. Worse, you can’t shut down your brain because you feel you might have missed something important.
It doesn’t have to escalate to the point at which you head home to snap at your kids and yell at your dog. There are simple ways to gain control during the most hectic and frantic of days.
Below is a simple, 15-minute regimen from my friend and writing coach Carolyn Roark, Ph.D., who taught college students for years and knows a little about creating calm amid a world of chaos. The next time the world is spinning you in all directions, go find a quiet place for 15 minutes and use this exercise to recenter yourself in the universe.
5 minutes of physical activity
Even though you may already have your blood pumping from running around the office, Roark suggests that heading outside and running or fast walking around the building will give you a break from the immediate chaos. Separation from the action will help your mind let go of the immediacy of issues. The release of endorphins will lift your mood and begin to break the stress.
4 minutes of gratitude
Now that your body is a little looser, you can start to clear your thoughts. The easiest way to slow down the pace is to remember why you are doing all of this to begin with. Use these minutes to contemplate how grateful you are for the people around you who support you and add value to your life. Be thankful for good health, good opportunities, and the wonders of the world you live in. You can take a broad approach and make a list, or pick one person and write a note. Send it tomorrow; no need for another task right now.
3 minutes of meditation
Now that you are in a positive state of body and mind, you can go to work on getting your mind to clear. Meditation is a very effective way of clearing out all the distractions and allowing you to find your center. There are several approaches you can use. Some people use prayer to quiet the outside and create an inward focus. Others cross their legs and hum. If you don’t have an established method, Roark recommends you find some examples on the Internet or find a guided video on YouTube. Either way, make sure it has specific structure that guides you through the process so you have one less thing to think about.
2 minutes of silence
With your mind clear, the last thing you need now is to walk back into the distracting frenzy. Find a quiet place you can sit and desensitize. Even if you are at your desk, turn out the lights, turn off your computer and electronics, put on some noise canceling headphones, and block out all stimuli. Be alone with yourself and focus on your calm. You can set your smartphone on airplane mode so it doesn’t disturb you, and put two minutes on the timer. If it’s in vibrate mode in your pocket, it will gently let you know when the two minutes of quiet are over. By now, you should be calm, cool, and clear.
1 minute of deep breathing
At the end of the quiet mode, set one more minute on the clock. Of course, you know you have to head back into the fray, so, time to prepare. For the next 60 seconds, focus on slow breathing as you bring yourself back to awareness. You’ll find that just the act of deep breathing will slow things down. For the rest of the day, if you find things edging out of control, you can simply go to a quiet space and repeat this one-minute breathing exercise, which should settle things down again. If it doesn’t seem to work, just find another 15 minutes and go back to the top.