Nanotechnology may revolutionise the way we undertake healthcare in the 21st century. Within just a few years, it may be possible for us to monitor our own health from home using just a mobile phone and what is known as sensing technology. This ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology also looks promising when it comes to global health – particularly with regard to providing precision tools for diagnosing diseases.
Sensing technology’s possibilities
This new technology offers a variety of possibilities, including:
- Ushering in a new kind of wireless remote healthcare where patients use various types of platforms to take their own health readings, and then upload this data to an online electronic health record. In cases where the readings are outside previously-set parameters, alerts might be created, prompting practitioners to issue prescriptive treatments or provide advice tailored specifically for the individual patient.
- Diagnostic and monitoring solutions for remote regions – particularly where healthcare infrastructure is lacking. As an example, Nokia’s recent XCHALLENGE competitions were created to find the best in sensing technologies for the healthcare field. One of the winners of these competitions was Nanobiosym’s Gene-RADAR platform – a device designed specifically for use in remote parts of Africa. The company claims that this device can be used to detect AIDS in less than an hour. As a comparison, currently in the US it can take up to two weeks to receive the results from HIV testing, at a cost of around $200.
- Shorter hospital visits – for example, the DynoSensor device enables patients to take their own vital readings and transmit these to medical personnel. This means they could be observed by hospital staff ‘remotely’ while recovering in their own homes – no doubt something many of us would prefer after a hospital visit! In addition, as for the Nanobiosym device, the DynoSensor could be used for health monitoring in regions where doctors and clinics are in short supply.
These technologies are likely to radically reduce the cost of healthcare and also make it more available for rural and remote populations. It may also mean that people from poor communities have greater access to the healthcare they need.
From the perspective of urology, there are a number of future possibilities for this technology, such as:
- It may one day be possible for patients to take their own PSA tests, using just a single drop of blood, rather than having to undergo regular blood tests or visit a urologist in Sydney.
- Devices could be used to detect urinary tract infections at home, saving time waiting for lab results.
- Urology patients who have undergone surgery may be able to be discharged more quickly from the hospital and recover at home.
- People who are attempting to make healthy lifestyle changes may have access to various wearable devices that read their heart rate, blood pressure and other body readings to monitor their progress.
There may also be many other benefits to be gained from this type of technology that we haven’t yet even thought about. Either way, technology looks sure to soon revolutionise the way we do things, from a simple visit to a GP or your urologist for tests, to post-surgery care.