The breakthroughs in the biomedical engineering industry were staggering in 2016. The world moved closer toward wearable systems that could continually monitor human health, and even produced studies for ingestible robots, designed to be powered by human stomach acid.
With biomedical engineering technologies becoming more apt at generating data about the human body and with more accuracy, the world is edging closer to more precise medical diagnoses.
Robert F. Graboyes, a senior researcher at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, has said that wearable telemetry will redefine the future of doctors’ appointments. In his article, ‘Wearable Telemetry - Eating Health Care’, he writes:
“Wearable telemetry (Jawbone and Fitbit are familiar examples) is helping to overturn 2,500 years of medical tradition. For the first time, wearables offer convenient, passive, continuous monitoring of vast numbers of human bodies. Implications for the doctor-patient relationship are profound.”
Patients will be equipped with data that doctors might have to peruse, and consider, before diagnosing a patient.
However, the affordability of wearables in a time when there is still a stark gap between rich and poor highlights the need for affordable novel applications for medical diagnosis in the biomedical engineering industry.
Audiologists in South Africa are making it as wallet-savvy as possible, by installing an app on your smartphone.
“Hearing loss is considered an invisible epidemic because people don’t see it or know that someone suffers from it,” said De Wet Swanepoel, a professor of audiology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in an interview with the BBC.
The project that Prof Swanepoel worked on has led to the development of an app called HearScreen. All you need is your smartphone and a pair of headphones. The app uses a series of beeps that tests the hearing of the person through the headphones. Based on what they can and cannot hear, the app determines the extent of medical assistance required.
The app is not only ensuring that poorer rural communities get the diagnoses they need, but it also addresses the shortage of audiologists in South Africa.
“Mobile apps can serve a very useful role in raising awareness about hearing and making hearing care more accessible. But if a mobile app for hearing assessment is not accurate this can give incorrect information to the user, which can be harmful,” Dr Shelly Chadha, technical officer for deafness and hearing at the World Health Organization, speaking to BBC News.
A report compiled by Research2Guidance revealed that there are 259,000 health apps available on the app stores available to smartphone users.
But wait...there’s more
Wearables and smartphone apps aside, surgical robots, with ten times the dexterity of humans, already exist in the biomedical engineering industry and are becoming progressively more adept at what they do.
A new robot used at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital in South Africa, has performed a knee surgery with more accuracy than ever before. The surgery has been called the 1st robotic knee replacement surgery in the world.
One of the doctors involved in the procedure, Dr Yusuf Hassan, spoke to News24 saying:
“This technology allows you as a surgeon, using the technology and patient’s own anatomy, to place the implants exactly where you want them. And then, not only does it allow you to put the implants where you feel necessary, but it also allows you to assess the soft tissue components.”
And the sky is the limit: robots that allow doctors to login from around the world through internet connections, and perform surgeries from hundreds of miles away, are no longer merely futuristic notions.
It is indeed an exciting time for would-be students interested in both engineering and medicine. A number of options are available to them in the area of biomedical engineering: software design and the design, building and maintenance of machinery and gadgets for medical facilities.
Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT), Dr Steve Mackay, presented at the annual Biomedical Engineering Conference in Canberra, Australia last week. As an educator he spoke of the challenges faced by EIT’s course designers endeavouring to expose students to just the right mix of content in this dynamic and broad field of engineering. He also spoke of his delight in the technologies available today which enable the instructors to reach students all around the world on a live, interactive platform.
The Engineering Institute of Technology offers an Advanced Diploma in Biomedical Engineering. The course brings together applied science and engineering, interspersed with electrical and electronic engineering. Inquire here today: Advanced Diploma of Biomedical Engineering.
Jackson, Tom. "The 'invisible Epidemic' Afflicting Millions Globally." BBC News. BBC, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
"Robotics Used in First Knee Op." News24. 22 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
"Wearable Telemetry - Eating Health Care – InsideSources." InsideSources. 21 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.
HearScreen. "Main." Hearscreen. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.