Devices and diagnostics

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Part of Time to Think Differently

Advances in medical devices, diagnostic testing and imaging are expected to continue apace enabling more care to be delivered closer to home. Intelligent devices and enhanced diagnostics could radically alter the way conditions are detected and treated, improving clinical outcomes and quality of life for the whole population.

Delivering care in the future

The use of computer-aided diagnosis could extend to conditions such as osteoporosis and Alzheimer's (1,2), while rapid compressed magnetic resonance scanning, miniature high-resolution ultrasounds, chromatography and mass spectroscopy are expected to enter general use (3,4).

Non-invasive tests identifying conditions through chemical signatures in the breath of patients and blood tests for biomarkers are being developed (5,6,7,8). Precision treatments for cancer are expected to become widespread as evidence on their effectiveness emerges (9,10).

Enabling services to be delivered locally and at lower cost using small, cheap devices, such as ECG monitors, is part of a move to 'frugal technologies'. Despite set-up costs, delivering care in this way in the community or people's homes could release resources from secondary care.

Robotic dispensing, electronic prescribing tools, implantable wireless microchips delivering daily medication and intelligent pills that are able to monitor drug use could all reduce medication errors (11,12,13).

Next page: Assistive technologies


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  12. Cressey D. News. Say hello to intelligent pills: Digital system tracks patients from the inside out. Nature News. 17 January 2012.
  13. Farra R, Sheppard NF Jr, McCabe L, Neer RM, Anderson JM, Santini JT Jr, Cima MJ, Langer R (2012). First-in-human testing of a wirelessly controlled drug delivery microchip. Science Translational Medicine, vol 4, no 122, 122ra21.