High-Tech Health

Sore throat? Achy back? Upset stomach? Time to make an appointment — with your computer.

According to recent news, many of our health-related interactions soon may be moving over to the virtual world. Take, for example, the case of Michael Cassara, a casting director who felt like he might be getting sick but couldn’t afford to take time out of his hectic workweek to visit his doctor’s office, according to one CNN.com article. Instead, Cassara did the next-best thing: He made an appointment to see his doctor virtually, à la video chat. Once his physician appeared on-screen, it was a matter of minutes before his case was diagnosed and medication was prescribed. Then he went about his business as usual.

Now, it’s common sense that this strategy can’t be used for more serious or complicated medical conditions, and it certainly isn’t meant to replace actual visits to the doctor’s office. Nonetheless, it points to the convenience potential of today’s technological advancements.

First came those tiny, noninvasive cameras that capture images of any part of the human body and provide crucial feedback for doctors. And then there are those medical Web sites that put physicians at your fingertips, answering your medical questions online for a small fee.

Further, it seems as though this “I don’t have time to be ill” mentality has spurred the creation and proliferation of what are known as virtual clinics. In certain parts of the United States, doctors are setting up these clinics in which they consult patients using technologies such as video conferencing.

And this kind of innovation isn’t just for patients. Physicians also are consulting with one another in real time via social networking tools such as Twitter. If they stumble upon medical cases that prove to be real head-scratchers, these sites serve as a forum for them to voice their concerns, seek guidance and expand their growing database of medical knowledge.

This reminds me of another article I read a few months ago that really caught my attention. The piece talked about a new type of technology that researchers at Georgia Tech are working on that would essentially allow one’s tongue to act like a joystick, or video-game control.

Wondering how that would work? Let me elaborate: The technology primarily would benefit individuals with disabilities by allowing them to maneuver wheelchairs, control home appliances and other difficult physical tasks. They would be able to do this by merely moving their tongues.

If that sounds fantastical, wait till you hear about what some of our clothing can do. Who needs haute couture when these items can win awards for practicality, innovation and the ability to double up as instruments that further our health?

One company invented a sports bra with textile electrodes built into the material, which can monitor your heart rate as you run. Meanwhile, researchers in Australia have cited the possibility of somehow placing devices such as GPS units and cameras into clothes.

And a few years ago, a college student envisioned and created a garment that allegedly prevents the wearer from getting a cold or the flu. Plus, to every laundry hater’s delight, this piece of clothing never needs to be washed.

My personal favorite, however, is an undergarment currently being developed that could potentially detect breast cancer at the very early stages — before it has a chance to spread, according to CNN.com. This special device also will be able to check the effectiveness of any type of breast cancer treatments.

Granted, some of these advancements may seem a bit far-fetched, but they certainly will allow us to make more than just fashion statements! 

– Deanna Hartley, dhartley@certmag.com

 

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Deanna Hartley

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