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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

Wearable Devices Enable Portable Medical Device Magic Warren Miller

A new generation of portable medical devices is on the way with capabilities that could dramatically change the way diagnostic and treatment is done outside the hospital setting. In fact, when portable medical devices have access to recent health and wellness information, like that available from wearable devices, it becomes practical to provide a wide variety of treatments in the home instead of in the hospital or with a doctor visit. Now, I’m not talking, at least not yet, about do-it-yourself brain surgery, but there are a wide variety of medical devices that can help us respond to emergency situations to save lives. Let’s see just how close to do-it-yourself brain surgery we can come.


The current wave of health and fitness monitoring devices all have advanced sensors and the capacity to capture and store key physiological functions during physical activity. What if a bit more intelligence could be added to these devices? If they could combine and compare measurements to historical or known-good baselines, early precursors of potential medical events could be detected. For example, a jogger in the early stages of dehydration puts significant added stress on the body, stress potentially detectable by a wearable activity monitor.  An early warning could help avoid a possible black-out and fall.


If an even more severe medical event were indicated, perhaps a severe cardiac arrhythmia, an emergency alert could be automatically generated and a data log of the measurements leading up to the event could be sent along with the alert. This additional data would help first responders more quickly determine the proper diagnosis and treatment. If an automated external defibrillator (AED) needed to be used, the data captured by a wearable device leading up to the event could be invaluable. The AED could scan the pulse oximeter and take conductivity and respiration measurements to make adjustments to the diagnosis and dramatically improve recovery rates.


Just think of other medical devices that could benefit from the large amount of health data a wearable device could collect. Over time, medical devices would become more ‘accustomed’ to the patient and become even better at predicting emergencies. Perhaps even better, if early indicators can be identified, changes to diet, exercise and other activities could avoid an emergency altogether.


So far, I have not been impressed with the applications for wearable devices, but finding and preventing medical emergencies, or working closely with emergency devices to save lives, to save my life- now that’s some medical magic I’m excited about.

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Warren Miller is a contributing author at Mouser Electronics with over 30 years of experience in the electronics industry. He has had roles in product planning, applications, marketing and management for large established companies as well as startups. Currently he is President of Wavefront Marketing, a consultancy serving semiconductor, tools and intellectual property companies.

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