Technical Paper: The future of safety isolation in home healthcare electronics

-May 06, 2013

The following is from Analog Devices Technical Article MS-2425


The defibrillator illustrates the direction of the future of healthcare. They are an amazing life-saving technology that, only a few years ago, existed only in ambulances and hospitals where they required specialized training and a team of dedicated healthcare professionals to use. Some people eye defibrillators with suspicion. Imagine what an untrained employee might do if a colleague suddenly clutched his chest and fell to the floor: run up to the box, break the glass, grab the Quick Start Guide, quickly scan the literature to learn the connections, controls, and precautions. Meanwhile, the victim is on the floor turning five shades of blue. At the same time, every dramatic scene from a medical drama goes through his head, where the doctor defibrillates himself or the nurse, instead of the patient. The reality is much less dramatic and illustrates how medical technology is following us out of the hospital and into the workplace and the home.



These defibrillators actually offer instructions, verbally and through diagrams, for a person who has never used the machine before, on exactly how to apply the monitors and paddles. The machine then makes the decision on how much energy to apply to the person in distress, while keeping the novice operator from doing damage to himself or the unfortunate victim. When the EMT arrives, he can plug into the defibrillator and download the stored data to take back to the hospital for a doctor to review.



This story illustrates the promise of technology, as well as the challenges. Medical devices will be moving out of clinically based settings and become increasingly integrated into people’s lives. These devices will range from helpful health aids such as a calorie counter app on a phone or a heart rate monitor on a treadmill, to life sustaining drug infusion pumps, long term monitors for vital sign logging, to emergency intervention devices such as the defibrillator. To support the move of medical monitoring and dispensing into the home setting, these devices are en route to becoming more:


1. Mobile: they have smaller and lower power so that they do not encumber even an elderly patient.

2. Smart: with the available monitoring information, they’re able to make sure that they are properly configured to do their intended job or call for immediate attention.

3. Safe: they must be designed to provide all of the electrical and operational safety of their older hospital based versions while being used by someone without any training.

4. Connected: they can easily be programmed, updated, and read out. This function will increasingly have to interface with non-medical devices such as commercial networked computers to allow communications with a distant medical facility.




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