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Health Digest: High-Tech Advances Revolutionize Medical Care

Posted October 20, 2006

— High-tech gadgets help people manage their calendars and communications, and they could soon help manage their health.

Cell phones can dial and find phone numbers with voice commands. Now, researchers have developed a phone that measures vocal patterns to detect mood changes.

"It looks at your tone of voice and how you're speaking and gives you a depression rating at the end. So this could tell you and tell the doctor that something needs to be done," said Professor Alex Pentland of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Many people depend on personal digital assistants (PDAs) to help organize their lives. Now, there is a PDA to ensure you are leading a healthy one. Sensors in the PDA actually monitor your level of physical activity. It tells you when to get off the couch.

Boston Medical Center is also testing a virtual nurse -- a new computer program that gives patients critical information before they're discharged from the hospital.

It tells "what kind of medications they should be taking and when they should be taking them, when their follow-up appointments are, information about their medical condition," said Professor Timothy Bickmore of Northeastern University in Boston.

Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics expert, made his own body the testing ground for several devices, including implantable microchips. He said these high-tech advances are revolutionizing medical care.

"Now with the technology, it's tremendously exciting being a pioneer and trying out some of that science fiction that we had in the past and making it science," he said.

For those who think high-tech, personal-health monitoring devices sound expensive, many pedometers can be bought for less than $10. They can help people meet a recommended daily activity level of walking 10,000 steps a day or five miles.

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