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PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week
technology

From a service that makes the waiting room a thing of the past to tech that may one day control our dreams, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world of wellness research.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 30 september 2012

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a snapshot of Ten Innovative Ideas each week that are reshaping the health care industry. Continue reading below for the most exciting ideas from the past seven days.

Online Hospital Queue Lets Patients Skip The Waiting Room
Health IT company InQuicker has introduced an online waiting service for ER and urgent care center patients that estimates projected treatment times and enables patients to wait from home for their appointments. Though InQuicker does not allow its users to book ER medical treatment in advance, after checking into the emergency room, the service estimates treatment times based on facility conditions and enables patients to wait in line from the comfort of their homes rather than the waiting room. In the event of a projected treatment time delay, InQuicker users are sent real-time notifications via phone call and email so they can continue waiting at home. Statistics show that 8 out of 10 ER patients who use InQuicker spend less than 15 minutes in the hospital waiting room before seeing a healthcare professional. InQuicker is currently partnered with 158 health care facilities in 21 states nationwide.

Smart Carpet Monitors For Falls And Offers Predictive Insight Into Future Mobility
A group of researchers at UK‘s University of Manchester has developed a sensor-embedded carpet that can detect if a person has fallen and predictively offer insight into issues around future mobility. The carpet is woven with a layer of optical fibers that creates a 2D plane pressure map. The carpet can detect distortions and relay that information to a computer analyzing the data to determine when/if a person has fallen. Similarly, the carpet can be used to analyze a person’s footsteps over time, looking for anomalies that suggest mobility issues potentially developing over time. The carpet can be simultaneously linked to call for help in the instance that someone falls and doesn’t immediately get up.

Bionic Eye Implant Responsive To Stimuli Offers Data For Restoring Full-Vision
A team of Australian researchers has successfully developed the world’s first retina-positioned implant intended to restore full vision in patients over the next few years. The Australian Bionics Institute implanted a bionic eye into a 54-year-old female patient who had suffered vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa. After the implant was turned on, the woman was able see flashes of light every time the implant was stimulated, allowing the researchers to proceed with their next steps developing a vision processor using feedback from the patient. Ultimately, the bionic eye system is planned to feature an external camera built into a pair of glasses that will supply the visual input for the implant.

Analyzing Rat Dreams Offers Implications For Human Dream Engineering
Researchers at MIT Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have successfully manipulated the content of a rat’s dream using audio cues associated with the previous day’s events. While studying their neural activity, the scientists trained the rats to run through a maze and used two distinct audio cues – one indicating that there was a food reward on the right and one indicating a food reward on the left. Later, when the rats were sleeping, the scientists compared their brain waves to those from the previous day and confirmed that the rats were dreaming about running the maze. Upon playing one of the two distinct audio cues, the scientists observed that the rats began dreaming of the section of the maze associated with that particular cue. The discovery furthers our understanding of how memories are stored during sleep and could potentially have further implications for human “dream engineering.”

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Societal Business Practices Result in Emotionally Distant Doctors
Andrew Molinsky, a professor of organizational behavior at Brandeis University, along with researchers at Wharton and Harvard business schools conducted a study which shows that people feel and behave less generously when reminded of the pressures of the business world. The study, titled “The Bedside Manner of Homo Economicus,” suggests that this drive to compete and be successful can adversely affect professionals working in ‘bad news’ industries where compassion and empathy are important. Chief among them, are healthcare workers, who in a push to increase the number of patients treated in a day, sacrifice personal attention in the name of efficiency. As this drive for productivity continues, these institutions will need to consider new training methods and techniques in order to improve overall level of care.

Gene Therapy Treatment Targets Cells Responsible For Transmitting Visual Information
The US-based startup Retrosense Therapeutics has implemented a gene therapy treatment intended to restore vision in blind patients. The technique, which is referred to as optogenetics, is a targeted form of gene therapy that grants light sensitivity to neurons, which don’t normally possess it. The treatment hones in on the cells acting as conduit for converting light into electrical signals, and those similarly responsible for transmitting visual information directly to the brain. Retrosense plans to begin its first clinical trial in 2013, studying nine human patients who suffer blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that leads to a gradual decline in vision due to the death of photoreceptor cells.

Anti-Aging Skincare Regime Infused With Customers’ Own Stem Cells
U Autologous has created a line of bespoke, anti-aging skincare products that incorporate a customer’s own stem cells. The company begins by collecting stem cells from its customers at a young age using liposuction, and cryogenically storing them for future use. Each U Autologous customer can then purchase a customized anti-aging product from the company that contains a mixture of their own stem cells and traditional anti-aging ingredients. The concept hinges on a recently discovered technique for filtering stem cells out of fat, which can be used by the body to repair damaged tissue.

Miniaturized Flow Cytometer Offers Real-Time Feedback And Analysis Of Cells
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has built a medical device that offers a real-time analysis of everything from infections, blood cells, and cancer markers. The ‘Microflow’ has been designed by the CSA to rapidly spot cells (and abnormalities) and biological molecules in a sample of liquid using a laser and fiber-optic technology. The device is miniaturized version of a flow cytometer -commonly used for a range of bioanalysis and clinical diagnoses- and its laser detectors are positioned to determine the physical and chemical properties of molecules or cells in the sample within ten minutes. Whereas most cytometers weight a couple of hundred pounds and can be as big as three large laser printers, the Microflow weighs less than 22 lbs. and is around the same size and weight as a toaster. Possible implications include offering remote communities a way to be tested quickly for things like infectious disease or allowing food and agricultural processing plans to run on-site quality-control inspections. The Microflow will be put to the test during an upcoming six-month space mission slated for December 2012.

Robot Designed For Babies Addresses Challenges Around Independent Mobility
Researchers at Ithaca College have developed a ‘drivable’ robot intended to grant movement to all babies, regardless of whether they are challenged with respect to issues around mobility. The ‘WeeBots’ robot utilizes the bases of Nintendo Wii balance boards, which can determine subtle shifts in weight through load sensors embedded in the corners of each platform. A commercially available infant seat can be placed on top of the balance board, and the robot can then be calibrated to respond to whichever way the baby leans. During trial periods, babies were reliably able to control the WeeBot during periods of free play. The innovation may grant mobility to all babies, even those handicapped with issues affecting independent mobility, like Down syndrome, spina bifida, or cerebral palsy. Mobility, particularly at an early age, is important as exploring and interacting with the world is linked to a child’s rate of cognitive development.

A Mobile Paternity-Testing Truck Offers Answers on the Go
Health Street is a mobile clinic in New York City run out of a 28-foot RV that does paternal and other familial DNA tests on the spot for $299 and up. A technician in the RV takes a patient’s blood sample and then sends it to a laboratory in Ohio, with test results being made available in three to five business days. Patients still need a prescription from a doctor to undergo testing, but the convenience of a mobile lab that makes house calls increases the probability that patients will follow through with testing. Nearly 500,000 paternity tests are taken every year with the number rising due to an increased number of unmarried women giving birth.

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on PSFK.com. If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.

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