Personal Medical Devices (1)

A posting from (Elizabeth Lane Lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics)
Devices that monitor people have the potential to become a boon to doctors and patients alike. The field is particularly important for the elderly, who tend to need more monitoring than younger patients. While medical alarm systems, which Life Alert makes, provide 24/7 protection in case of home emergencies, the devices discussed below are used primarily for non-emergency applications, where one needs to be monitored for various data (for example, blood sugar levels in diabetics). The posting from (edited slightly here) discusses one academic’s opinions about such devices. I agree with her assessment that we need to fund research to improve these devices and make them more widespread – especially in the “peripheral” areas of interfaces to devices and visualization of data. Research that “crosses over disciplinary boundaries” has historically been where some of the greatest discoveries and inventions have arisen. Many believe blogging (itself a recent invention) will become an effective tool to sway public and medical opinion, and hence may be used to encourage the funding of more forward-thinking research. Doctors and NIH officials may find it wise to begin reading online blog journals like Ms. Lawley’s, as well as those written by seniors and scientists, in order to accurately monitor public and academic opinion. We encourage more seniors to dive into the world of blogs. Starting one is easy, often free, and fun – and can serve not only as a creative outlet, but as a way to voice one’s views, letting others benefit from years of life experience. --Dr. Don Rose, Writer, Life Alert
One of the more interesting topics that came up at lunch today was the work being done by Ben Shneiderman's students on interfaces for "personal medical devices" -- like the monitors used by diabetics to record blood sugar, for example. Coincidentally, one of the faculty members at the lunch was a diabetic, and she was wearing an automated insulin pump -- which spurred some interesting dialogue.
Shneiderman told us about a physician he's been working with at Johns Hopkins who wants to work on how these devices record and report data, so that they (a) better match patient needs for record-keeping (think about critical data that medical patients are often expected to record about themselves...the potential for accidental or intentional error is enormous), and (b) better match physician needs for analysis. Even when a patient properly records blood sugar 4 times a day in a 30-day log, for example, that information isn't generally in a form that's useful to the medical practitioner.
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