According to the Journal of Patient Safety, a whopping 210,000 to 440,000 deaths attributable to medical errors occur in hospitals every year. Clearly, there is a desperate need for technology to take a leading role in medical device development in order to improve patient outcomes and save money. The two emerging technologies in the medical space are context-aware technology and multi-input technology.

Fig. 1 – Dr. Jay Flottmann, Training Officer, and Maj. (ret.) Barry Coggins, Chief Information Officer, interact with the CHaRM™ system, prior to testing in a hospital setting.
Context-aware technology links changes occurring in the environment (based on spatial, temporal, and/or user sensor data) with computer systems, which are otherwise static. This technology is able to learn or modify system functionality based on historical data, environment, users, etc. For example, some hospitals have adopted this technology by using mobile devices to communicate tasks and reports to hospital staff based on their location. Conversely, multi-input technology involves multiple modes of interaction with a system (e.g. keyboard, mouse, voice, gesture, touch screen). These technologies allow end-users to access data using a variety of methods.

Popular Technologies

Some of the most popular and advanced features in medical machinery include gesture-sensitive checklists, voice activation, and context-aware software.

Some of the big players in the medical technology space include:

  • Leap Motion (Gesture-Sensitivity): Provides the ability to interact with a computer through motion and gestures.
  • Microsoft® Kinect™: Provides the ability to interact with a computer through motion and gestures, as well as voice.
  • Microsoft® Sync Framework: Syncs data from multiple data stores seamlessly.
  • Asclepius (named after the Greek god of medicine and doctors): A web server that provides easy data retrieval from other platforms.
  • Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF): Enables the binding of user controls directly to data in the device. In cases where medical devices aid in saving lives, technologies like WPF are extremely important because every second counts.

Alone, these separate technologies are somewhat limited. However, when integrated together, medical devices become virtual medical workers able to gather information from one another and interpret the environment around them, such as adjusting to differences in speech between multiple users.

Both context-aware and multi-input technologies are the future of medical device development because professional and consumer demand indicates so. Both patients and medical professionals desire medical devices that are equipped with the technology needed to store data securely, respond timely based on interactions, and positively impact the end-user. By considering multi-input and/or context-aware technology during the development process, engineers can better satisfy end-users’ demand. These demands are the main reasons why technology is being introduced into the medical space today.

Given the popularity of smartphones, smart tablets, and other high-tech consumer products that possess context-aware or multi-input features, it is important for engineers to think about how they, too, can use these technologies to advance the medical field. Developers are quickly learning that technology is transferrable across professional practices. The same features that we use to operate our iPhone® and video games are now being considered as validated and useful technologies to be applied in the development of medical devices.

Engineering Benefits

Engineers who incorporate multi-input technology into medical devices allow the end-user to interact with the same data in many different ways. For example, a patient’s data from a routine checkup versus an emergency room visit can be viewed differently, depending on the needs of the doctor, medical staff, and patient. Utilizing multi-input integrative technologies opens up the doors of possibility for how data can be used to improve patient outcomes. Similarly, context-aware technology eliminates the need to manually interact with data, making device functionality automatic. It serves the user with automatic identification of patients or their environment, recording of patient data, presentation of data, etc.

Both technologies streamline the communication process within medical devices, allowing end-users to work in sterile environments, customize, generate, and store data according to patient-specific needs and, ultimately, reduce medical errors and improve patient safety.

Device Applications

Currently, both context-aware and multi-input technologies are incorporated into a select few medical devices used by ambulance drivers, in medical surgeries, for patient record-keeping, etc. Devices can be used for monitoring and diagnostics, medical checklists, and treatment and therapy-based purposes. Amadeus Consulting recently incorporated these technologies into a medical e-Checklist system called the CHaRM™ system developed for Parallax Enterprises, Pikesville, MD, in order to increase patient safety and reduce medical mistakes in the operating room. (See Figure 1)

The system utilizes aviation technology to generate interactive, gesture-sensitive checklists, and a “Heads-Up display” for medical professionals. The device, soon to be gold-released, has a HIPAA-compliant cloud storage system, Heads-Up-Display, Kinect API technology for the Gesture Sensitive Checklist, and MVC, .NET, SQL, and Kendo UI features for the system’s Office Dashboard.

The technologies that allow for seamless and responsive interactivity help educate patients on their medical procedures, while giving the medical team instant access to the patient’s medical records and documentation. The system’s gesture-sensitive checklist allows for proactive, rather than reactive, procedures due to Microsoft® Kinect’s™ ability to recognize a user’s hand when it moves. Voice recognition is built in, allowing surgeons to run through the checklist in a sterile environment. Additionally, the MVC platform provides memory management, data security, and interoperability.

These and other features of the system demonstrate that medical devices that use the most advanced technology will not only alleviate medical professional’s challenges in their practice, but also solve the engineer’s eternal challenge to develop a device that incorporates safety, security, traceability, and transparency.

Ultimately, the information generated from these technological features shows developers how the devices will interact with the end-user, a vital consideration in the development of any medical device. The use of technology to support medical device operation indicates that engineers, medical professionals, and even patients are turning away from human-generated results to more accurate computer-generated results. This expectation tells us the “why” behind incorporating technology into medical device development. Engineers and developers can now begin to build better medical devices that adapt to the many needs and situations of end-users, and ultimately, contribute to improving patient safety and even saving lives.

This article was written by Jay Millard, Chief Operating Officer at Amadeus Consulting, Boulder, CO. For more information on Amadeus Consulting, visit http://info.hotims.com/49747-167 . For more information on Parallax Enterprises, visit http://info.hotims.com/49747-187 .


Medical Design Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2014 issue of Medical Design Briefs Magazine.

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