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The e-health program, a new approach to health care, by utilizing electronic technology, Part 1

Editor's note: Readers will have to register or log in (if you already have an account) for free on Science Translational Medicine, in order to view the entire abstract referenced in the following blog.

Electronics technology is playing an important role in making the life of users more comfortable and simple. This trend is quickly gaining importance, as is confirmed by a recent research of scientists from the University of Columbia, about a very cheap black box that is able to analyze the blood of a patient, and detect the presence of dangerous diseases like HIV or syphilis, in a very short time frame:

“We sought to build on previous work in miniaturizing diagnostics hardware for the rapid point-of-care (POC) diagnosis of HIV, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases. Early diagnosis and treatment of such diseases in pregnant mothers have been shown to reduce adverse health consequences to both mothers and their children. Treponemal antibodies appear earlier than nontreponemal antibodies in syphilis infection and have been used in syphilis rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). Recently, some manufacturers (Chembio, SD Bioline, and MedMira) have developed dual HIV/treponemal-syphilis tests, but these tests rely on lateral-flow or immunofiltration technologies, which could limit their performance and ability to multiplex. We therefore sought to engineer all the capabilities of a benchtop enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) instrument into a small diagnostic accessory—a “dongle”—that attaches to a smartphone.” (Source: Science Translational Medicine)

This solution guarantees to save a great deal of money because the cost, in the order of $50, is very low compared to the cost of a biological analysis laboratory. This strategy is also a perfect fit to guarantee the privacy of a patient, who is able to do the check by themselves since this system is interfaced with the user’s smartphone by means of a dedicated app: the data can be stored in a personal medical record of the user (see Figure 1)

Figure 1

A medical quick and low cost test of the biological parameters of a patient available on the user smartphone by means of a dedicated app. (Source: Android Blog)

A medical quick and low cost test of the biological parameters of a patient available on the user smartphone by means of a dedicated app. (Source: Android Blog)

Let’s see the basic architecture of this new and interesting solution that holds promise to become widely used, due to its low cost and easiness of being implemented with only a few components:

Figure 2

Click here for larger image 

The block diagram of the solution proposed by the University of Columbia (Source: Science Translational Medicine )

The block diagram of the solution proposed by the University of Columbia (Source: Science Translational Medicine )

As it is shown in Figure 2, the system requires some basic electronics components like LEDs or photodiodes that can be inserted into integrated electronics ICs (see Figure 3) and this means a good opportunity for electronics companies that produce these components:

Figure 3

An electronic system utilizing integrated ICs, photodiodes and LEDs. (Source: circuitdigest)

An electronic system utilizing integrated ICs, photodiodes and LEDs. (Source: circuitdigest)

The prevention and the early diagnosis of dangerous diseases is just a first step for this approach that combines electronics technology with the medical healthcare disease/illness prevention, in the near future some new updates may appear in this new “e-health” market.

Do you like this kind of approach? What are, in your opinion, the main strengths and weaknesses of this solution?

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