Medical Segment May Inspire Today's Inventors

Aug. 26, 2009
This year, we honor five history-making figures as additions to our "Microwave Legends" hall of fame (see "Microwave Legends," p. 47; full list is available at www.mwrf.com/legends). Yet the "legend" title is not limited to great minds of the ...

This year, we honor five history-making figures as additions to our "Microwave Legends" hall of fame (see "Microwave Legends," p. 47; full list is available at www.mwrf.com/legends). Yet the "legend" title is not limited to great minds of the past. In today's world, microwave engineers are heroes every time a life-saving call is made from a cell phone or a person in need is located via technologies that leverage the Global Positioning System (GPS). These are only two of many scenarios in which microwave technology is being used to improve and even save lives. With the growth of wireless and microwave technologies in the medical arena, modern-day legends are sure to emerge with ideas and proposals that change the course of history.

Currently, the wireless monitoring of patients and corresponding data collection are largely driving technology innovation for the medical segment. To improve the availability of patient information, for example, Raytheon Co. will provide an electronic patient-tracking system to a public-health-led team of first responders and hospital personnel in Long Beach, CA. Dubbed the EPTS, the system uses a combination of barcode and radio-frequency-identification (RFID) tags to identify a patient's location, medical status, and personal information. This information is then wirelessly transferred to a Web-enabled database that provides the patient's information to both hospitals and emergency personnel.

Although this solution is geared toward the public-safety segment, such monitoring technologies are predicted to experience major growth in the home as well. According to Parks Associates, wireless home healthcare will be a $4-billion industry by 2013. The research firm's report, "Wireless Healthcare: Analysis & Forecasts," predicts that the US market for wireless home-based healthcare applications and services will grow at a five-year cumulative annual growth rate of over 180 percent. The merging of healthcare and wireless technologies can benefit home care in areas like chronic care management, medicaldiagnostic device monitoring, wellness and fitness applications, medication management, and senior independent-living solutions.

As exciting as these monitoring and data-sharing applications are, they are only skimming the surface of microwave and RF technologies' potential for the medical environment. Microwave technologies already are at the heart of medical-resonance-imaging and wirelessmonitoring applications. And researchers have already used microwaves to treat cancerous tumors, detect pregnancy and malaria, and more. In fact, emerging millimeter-wave solutions have been heralded as a potential solution for a vast array of medical treatments and solutions. As microwave technology continues to advance, today's great, innovative mindsthe "Microwave Legends" of tomorrowwill envision undreamed-of applications and inventions that will improve and save lives in the future.

About the Author

Nancy Friedrich | Editor-in-Chief

Nancy Friedrich began her career in technical publishing in 1998. After a stint with sister publication Electronic Design as Chief Copy Editor, Nancy worked as Managing Editor of Embedded Systems Development. She then became a Technology Editor at Wireless Systems Design, an offshoot of Microwaves & RF. Nancy has called the microwave space “home” since 2005.

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