It is widely recognized that the growing global population is aging and this trend will place an increasing demand on medical and healthcare resources. Specifically, in 2008, there were more than 650 million people over the age of 65 and this number will double over the next 10 years. In the United States, about 20% of the population
School of Engineering, Brown University, 182 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02917, USA e-mail: [email protected]
T.J. Webster (ed.), Nanotechnology Enabled In situ Sensors for Monitoring Health, 41
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-7291-0_2, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
will be over 65 by 2030, compared to only 12% today. As a consequence of this aging, a number of chronic age-related diseases (specifically, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and dementia) have significantly increased (Fass 2007). In addition, there are more than one billion adults worldwide today who are overweight. Clearly, there is an ever-increasing shortage of doctors and nurses, and an increasing demand for healthcare services (Feied et al. 2006). Such an unbalance between "supply and demand" in medicine will place an enormous strain on our medical communities unless we develop new, novel, medical care technologies.
Some believe the future of medicine resides in wireless sensor technologies. Such wireless medical technologies may be more efficient and effective than today's medical practices. As an example of the importance of wireless medical technologies, today, over 50% of hospitals in the United States have wireless local area networks (WLANs) and widely accessible Wi-Fi and WiMax devices, enabling practitioners to access patient medical information, both at the point of care and anywhere else it is needed (Hao and Foster 2008). Similarly, tablet PCs, PDAs and laptops connected to the WLAN allow clinicians to immediately record medical information in an electronic format, as well as order tests and prescribe medication at the patient's bedside, all from their chosen device (Hao and Foster 2008). It is now commonplace to find doctors with computers (rather than old-fashion paper folders) when meeting with patients.
Inside the body, the use of wireless medical devices is also undergoing a revolution. Proponents of wireless medical devices highlight the possibility to now develop small, low-power, lightweight, and intelligent physiological monitoring devices. Wireless body sensor networks (WBSN) have been developed to provide real time information concerning patient health (Hao and Foster 2008). This chapter will cover some of the more exciting advances in this electronic age where wireless medical devices are revolutionizing medicine. Nanotechnology, or the use of materials with one dimension less than 100 nm, is playing a large part in this revolution by allowing for the design of materials with unique properties to interface with tissues and cells.
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