Today, many nations across the globe are facing a serious shortage of healthcare providers, with an estimated deficit of about 2.3 million nurses, physicians, and obstetricians. Along with the shortage of workers, about 45% of patients aren’t receiving the testing, diagnosis, and treatments that are recommended. This is where convenient and versatile medical devices that aid in testing and diagnosis come in.
What if these medical devices were available to you for use in the convenience of your own home? It’s being considered and widely talked about by many, including scholars and medical technology manufacturers. Considering that the use of medical devices using wireless technologies has grown exponentially, even those that are implanted and worn on the body, it’s only plausible to bring this technology into consumers’ homes.
There are a multitude of implanted devices, including those that help to monitor and control heart activity, electrically stimulate nerves, monitor blood sugar levels, and even cranial pressure. External devices can help patients with other imperative physiological factors, including the function of artificial limbs or monitoring vital signs.
Wireless medical devices today transmit to nearby receivers, connecting to cellular systems, landline networks, and even broadband networks that access the Internet. Today, there is less of a need for patients to be connected to countless cables, which means a more comfortable environment for the patient, a decreased risk of infection, and a safer environment for healthcare workers. Wireless devices will allow patients to be able to stay out of medical environments and thrive while still being monitored, as the devices will capture vital information in real-time without the need for doctor or hospital visits. In addition, these devices would also reduce health care costs and the need for more healthcare workers during the shortage.
These wireless devices typically fall into two categories: short range and long range. In general, the short range devices transmit data from the patient to a local network receiver, which may be either a stand alone monitoring station or connected to a central station, using technologies like WiFi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee. Long-range devices transmit the patient’s data to a remote monitoring station, typically requiring Internet access.
Like all healthcare-related products and technologies to be marketed to consumers, these wireless devices must conform to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation. The FDA requires that the devices are “substantially equivalent” to their medical office or hospital counterparts or otherwise safe and effective under the PMA program. On August 13, 2013, the FDA issued a document titled “Radio-Frequency Wireless Technology in Medical Devices.” The purpose of the document is to provide guidance to manufacturers of medical devices using wireless technology. It covers multiple topics, including design and testing, performance, wireless quality, and data security.
The technological advancement of the at-home medical product market would bring about worldwide changes for patients and healthcare providers alike. There’s a great opportunity for many wireless technology and medical device manufacturers and even startup companies. These devices will also help to solve the very real problems of healthcare worker shortages and the excess costs to patients, medical offices, and hospitals.