Saturday, December 7, 2013

Medical Cyber-Physical Systems

We have had medical electronics devices for several decades and they have made a huge difference in medical care.  A nurse once explained to me how he used to set up a drip for a patient.  It required a lot of manual tweaking of the tubes and drip rate.  And this was in the 1970's, not so long ago.  Continuous monitoring instruments have also made a huge difference in patient care.

We are in the midst of a new round of medical device innovation.  This time, innovation emphasizes systems.  Networked devices have existed for awhile but largely with proprietary interfaces.  The push to digitize and integrate medical records into a unified system is leading manufacturers toward an increasingly cyber-physical approach to medical device design.

Several proposals have been developed for the integration of medical devices, including MDPnP, the Medical Device Coordination Framework, and the  University of Pennsylvania  Medical Application Platform (MAP) architecture.  Several common themes emerge from these efforts: frameworks that support closed-loop design; safety of the system operation even when individual devices fail; and the need to provide quality-of-service (QoS) guarantees for real-time data.

Patient records have become much more integrated and accessible to a broader range of medical personnel.  A decade ago, a lot of hospitals moved records on paper from one part of the hospital to another---none of their data was digitized.  As doctors learn to use these integrated systems, we can expect that they will find new applications that require new capabilities.

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