What Part Do Electronics Play in Remote Healthcare?
By Rob Moore, Sales Director of Electronic Manufacturing Solutions.
The healthcare sector is at a turning point. The U.K.’s NHS and other crucial services have been at maximum capacity since the pandemic due to increased demand, backlogged appointments and staff strikes, and practitioners are struggling to keep up.
Fortunately, electronics developers are working hard to present several tech-based solutions.
Like most industries, healthcare’s being transformed by digitisation. Providers are rolling out advanced medical technologies and connected devices to unlock new capabilities — including remote patient monitoring (RPM).
Modern technology’s making remote healthcare more accessible — even for those who don’t consider themselves ‘tech-savvy’.
And with a lack of available resources to scale up existing services, embracing the capabilities of these virtual tools could help providers streamline processes and deliver care and support to more patients.
Embracing limitless possibilities for medical technology
For years, healthcare professionals have been looking for more convenient ways to monitor patient health, and RPM technologies could be the solution they’ve been searching for.
Thanks to the advanced connectivity provided by the internet of things (IoT) and the rapidly expanding capabilities of today’s electronics, healthcare’s combining with technology to help patients self-manage their conditions and allow medical professionals to gain around-the-clock insights into patients’ health.
Giving patients access to frequent and timely advice (no matter where they are) through virtual appointments and enabling doctors to monitor vital measurements remotely can improve treatment processes and minimise in-person visits, taking pressure off stretched medical staff.
So, what types of devices are commonly used in remote healthcare?
Blood pressure monitors
Conventional manual blood pressure machines can be uncomfortable to use, and many people don’t have one of their own.
Alternatively, new wearable blood pressure devices are much more discrete and portable, meaning patients can wear them all day to understand their blood pressure better.
These gadgets feature photoplethysmography (PPG) technology, which uses optical and inertial sensors to detect blood flow patterns automatically. The readings from these devices give patients the power to make informed choices about their diet and activities to improve their health between appointments.
Self-adhesive biosensors with advanced microchips can perform crucial functions — from tracking glucose levels to monitoring heart and respiratory rates — to unlock real-time health insights.
These devices are especially impactful when paired with user-friendly apps, which we’ll likely see more of in the future.
The NHS Long Term Plan champions the development of NHS-approved platforms that’ll help people manage conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Users will be able to record measurements, get medication prompts and access specialist information remotely — reducing pressure on the NHS system and increasing the level of personalised care patients receive.
Continuous glucose monitors
Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and flash devices were developed for people with diabetes to help them monitor and manage changes in blood sugar levels.
Thanks to sensors attached to the wearer’s arm or stomach, the CGM or flash monitor can sense how much glucose is in the fluid under the skin and tests it every few minutes. Then, a transmitter wirelessly sends the information to a reader or receiver that shows the results.
With all this information at their fingertips, diabetes patients can manage their symptoms efficiently, which gives them the freedom to go about their day-to-day lives with the confidence they can act quickly if their glucose levels dip or peak.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a simple test that can be used to check a patient’s heart rhythm and electrical activity.
Sensors attached to the skin are used to detect the electrical signals produced by the heart each time it beats; typically, these signals are recorded by a machine and looked at by a doctor.
However, thanks to advances in remote technology, ECG monitors are now made wearable or portable, with connectivity features that allow patients to view their results from a smartphone and share them with a healthcare professional.
For those with heart issues, such as chest pain, palpitations and shortness of breath, remote devices take away the stress of backlogged appointments or delayed attention — especially as more GPs and hospitals offer video appointments to streamline expert care further.
Designing quality electronics for RPM devices
As RPM equipment is introduced for a growing list of applications, we expect to see demand for these devices and solutions grow — with revenue in the healthcare technology market projected to reach £480.51 billion ($579.40 billion) this year.
However, for the quality and efficiency of care to continue improving with evolving technologies, there are a few critical considerations electronic manufacturers must be aware of…
When developing electronics for medical applications, safety and reliability are top concerns. Devices must perform their designated tasks perfectly every time to ensure the best care.
As a result, regulation and compliance are critical in ensuring only the best products are available to patients and practitioners. All medical devices and their components must adhere to international and regional compliance standards to guarantee usability — a commitment EMS is dedicated to.
The NQA global certification body audited our business management system (BMS) in February 2021, and we were awarded ISO 13485:2016 accreditation — demonstrating our commitment to developing safe, high-quality components for medical devices.
We plan to use our certification to continue supporting the medical devices sector, delivering best-in-class services and bolstering our standing as the supplier of choice for these projects.