Patients Could Interact With Medical Devices via Implantable Interfaces


Researchers are testing whether patients can interact directly with their implanted medical devices through the use of implanted user interfaces, InformationWeek reports.

Christian Holz and colleagues at the University of Toronto and Autodesk Research, a Toronto-based research and design firm, will present their findings at the upcoming Association of Computing Machinery conference in Texas.

Impetus for Research

According to the researchers, implanted user interfaces could allow patients to recharge and reprogram their implanted medical devices without the use of wireless transmissions, which could be vulnerable to hacking.

Holz said, "So far, people have only been able to get those implants checked by making a trip to a physician or by interacting with wireless technologies such as Bluetooth." He added, "But there hasn't been a lot of direct interaction with implanted devices, and indirect wireless communications have raised some security concerns."

Study Findings

According to the study, implanted user interfaces have several advantages over mobile or wearable user interfaces. For example, they are invisible and unaffected by weather conditions.

Using a cadaver, researchers found that they could communicate successfully with a small user interface implanted under the skin of the arm. They tested several ways to enter information, including pressure and light sensors.

Researchers also successfully recharged an implanted medical device's batteries by placing a "powering mat" on top of the skin.

In addition, researchers tested Bluetooth transmissions that could prompt a smartphone or other wireless device to send signals to a health care manager or physician. They found that the Bluetooth data transmissions were barely affected by the skin covering the implanted user interface.

Call for Further Research

Holz and colleague Tovi Grossman of Autodesk Research said that more research is needed on implanted user interfaces. They noted that future studies should assess the infection risks of the devices (Terry, InformationWeek, 5/2).

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