The Dartmouth medical wand may allow doctors to monitor their patients in between medical visits by combining innovative medical technologies with Wi-Fi internet connections. The prototype for the new Dartmouth medical wand was dubbed “Wanda” and it was developed as part of a multi-university project. The project is focused on finding new ways to protect patient confidentiality.
The initiative comes at a time when healthcare is taking place inside people’s homes increasingly often. With more patients receiving medical care at home rather than in doctor’s offices or hospitals, developing devices that help increase patient confidentiality is key to building a sound healthcare system that protects patients’ private medical records at home as well as in the hospital.
Creating The Dartmouth Medical Wand
The Dartmouth medical wand was, according to its creator doctoral student Tim Pierson, built by focusing on simplicity and safety. According to Pierson, many computer security business inventions are highly secure but hard to use. Consequentially, people cannot understand how to use the existing technology because of its complexity. In the case of the new Dartmouth wand, the goal was, Pierson went on to say, creating a piece of equipment and a technology that his in-laws and parents could use.
In other words, many of the people that require in-house patient care and medical monitoring in between doctor’s appointments are of a more advanced age. They require secure medical equipment that is user-friendly and easy to understand and use. The “Wanda” prototype aims to be just that: a new technology that keeps patient information safe but that anyone can learn to operate easily.
How Does The Dartmouth Medical Wand Work?
The idea behind Wanda seems pretty straight forward. A doctor would give a patient a blood pressure cuff controlled by a doctor via a Wi-Fi connection. The patient can then simply point the wand at the device in order to connect it to the Wi-Fi network. Without the wand, the patient would have to type in a passcode to connect to his home Wi-Fi network. Once the patient has pointed the wand at his device, the connection is made and the cuff begins to send blood pressure readings back to the doctor’s office.
The Wanda prototype is made from a ruler that has to antennas attached to it. Once the device is plugged into a Wi-Fi router, it will acquire the name and password that a home network has. After being plugged into the router to get the name and password, it can be detached and pointed at the medical device to automatically connect it with the network.
The Dartmouth medical wand works based on a simple principle: it takes the password information and it converts it into binary code. Once the information is changed into binary code (ones and zeros) it is transmitted forward by the antennae. One antenna transmits information packets containing the “zeros”, the other transmits packets of “ones”.
The medical device is very close to the wand. Because of this proximity, the signal is strong enough for the medical device to identify the antenna that each packet was transmitted from. However, hackers couldn’t tell the difference between the antennas that sent each information packet because they wouldn’t be so close to the wand, and the signal would not be strong enough. This would keep the information transmitted by the wand safe from malicious hacking.
What Are the Benefits of the Dartmouth Medical Wand?
According to Pierson, health care has started to move into a world where treatments take care outside of the hospitals and where sensors can be found beyond the walls of medical treatment facilities. Because of that fact, scientists have started to wonder about the possible challenges that configuring medical devices in the home will pose. Considering the fact that private homes do not benefit from the constant presence of trained professionals, it is easy to understand why making these devices accessible to the general public is vital.
Hospitals usually have trained people to configure medical devices. These professionals set the devices up and monitor them in order to ensure that they are working properly. But when these devices are used in the patient’s home and there are no doctors, nurses, or IT teams around to ensure their proper functionality, they have to be reliable and simplistic, so that patients can use them easily and correctly.
When it comes to the Dartmouth medical wand, the patient doesn’t need to know the information needed to connect the device to the Wi-Fi network. Because the wand picks up the network name and password when it is plugged into the Wi-Fi router, the patient wouldn’t even need to know what the Wi-Fi password is in order to use the device. This makes the new technology accessible to patients that are not tech-savvy enough to operate and connect to a Wi-Fi network.
Elderly patients that might have trouble understanding how the equipment works or how to use their passwords to connect to the network could immensely benefit from the wand. Similar approaches have been used to create medical technology that is easily accessible to patients. Researchers have tried using sound to transmit a secret key to devices that have to be connected.
Accelerometers have also been modified to pair devices when they are being shaken in a similar attempt. According to Pierson, these approaches are less viable because they require additional equipment. The drawback to most of these technologies is that some kind of sensor or equipment has to be incorporated into the medical device in order to receive the signal and connect to the network.
In the case of Pierson’s Dartmouth medical wand, no additional technology is required to establish the connection between the network and the medical device. Users can simply plug it in, get the network information, and point it at the device to connect to it. This would considerably improve patients’ ease of access to medical equipment needed in their home.
The Dartmouth medical wand project was developed as part of a $10 million five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, the Vanderbilt University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
For more information, you can visit: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-dartmouth-magic-wand-pairs-medical.html