For physician, health care provider and patient, the 21st century will be the century of quality of life and health. New technologies have been developed to assist patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia to adapt and live in a home setting. Designed as a “living laboratory,” the University of Rochester’s “Smart Medical Home” is a cross-disciplinary research effort to develop interactive technology for home health care. It may forever change your notions of personalized medicine and home.
The “Smart Medical Home” is the creation of a cross-disciplinary group of scientists and engineers from the college, the Medical Center, and the university’s Center for Future Health. The result is a comfortable apartment, a residential oasis with a spacious kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom, surrounded by the busy labs and offices of the Medical Center.Thus the “smart home” is a venture to help patients and caregivers who may benefit from computer based technology in their homes to improve and maintain health and wellness.
Patient Education in the SMART Home
The “Personal Medical Advisor” offers key information to the patient in the home on a wall-mounted monitor. A computer-animated character called “Chester the Pill” stands ready to discuss medical health. Users of the future would be able to interact with the computer by speaking normally, asking questions about which medicines to take or getting advice about symptoms of an illness.
Developing the technology to bring Chester to life emphasizes the project’s interdisciplinary nature. Computer scientists are developing the virtual intelligence software, while doctors oversee the database of medical information.
A gait monitor is being developed to track the way residents walk. The system’s computers will make comparisons over time, checking for any tell-tale shuffling or limping that may be the precursor to a stroke or for the trembling that may indicate Parkinson’s disease. By identifying these ailments early, the hope is that a disease’s full effects can be ameliorated or prevented.
Aiding memory impaired individuals
Other technology in development in the project includes a computer that tracks the location of pre-programmed items such as eyeglasses, coffee cups, or car keys throughout the house so their owner will never lose them. A camera and scanning system can take three-dimensional textured images of your skin, automatically checking for carefully watched skin features such as moles.
Vital signs read at home
Environmental sensors detect harmful levels of pollen or dust from recycled air and automatically take steps to remedy the situation and alert health care professionals, not unlike life alert technology. In addition, the development of sensors located in innocuous areas could take blood pressure readings and gather other helpful information almost without residents noticing.
Researchers envision scanning technology that can take detailed 3-D images of faces and body parts, and then compare the latest images to those stored from earlier scans. Such comparisons could help detect skin diseases at their earliest stages.
The Smart Bandage
Another innovative SMART concept builds on work conducted at the Center for Future Health to develop a “smart bandage” that can identify the presence of harmful bacteria. Researchers are investigating whether the same technology can be used to identify harmful pathogens in food. Scientists foresee cutting boards that alert you to bacteria like salmonella or containers and wrapping that will alert consumers when the food is unsafe for consumption.
What technology in the SMART MEDICAL HOME is available today?
Boston Life Labs offers wellness, prevention, teaching and disease management through interactive patient communication and complete vital sign monitoring in the home environment through telehealth technology. They provide consumers with a complete range of innovative and affordable products for the Smart Medical Home.
Bluetooth-enabled monitoring devices (wrist Blood Pressure, Smart Body Scale, Ear Thermometer, and Pulse Oximeter) along with the HPad and HPod are automatically paired with the special telehealth monitor box and, with the touch of a button, the patient takes their vital signs or records their answers on the HPad. They are sent automatically to a secure server. The data is easily accessed by patient, clinician, caregiver, or family member, allowing enhanced patient care, disease management, and prevention.
While some of the technologies in the project are fully functional today, others are still years from application. The ideas and the thinking that goes into making the home safer and creating a healthier center of wellness in the home can produce an environment where people who are in need of such aids can live in their own home.
Sources & Resources:
Boston Life Labs retrieved at the following website: http://www.bostonlifelabs.com/homedetail/25-smart-medical-home
Center for Future Health, University of Rochester, and SMART MEDICAL HOME retrieved at website: http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/future-health/
By Thomas W. Miller, Ph.D. ABPP, Staff Writer
Thomas W. Miller, Ph.D. ABPP is a Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist, Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut and retired service chief from the VA Medical Center and tenured Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky.