While we laud medical technology for its potential to save lives, many innovations tend to bring the doctor away from the patient and toward computer screens and mobile phones. MedSensation, founded by members with expertise in mechanical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, bioengineering, and medicine, seeks to reverse this trend. They have developed a Glove Tricorder, which we have covered previously, that aims to augment the ability for patients and physicians to diagnose illnesses just with human touch. As such, it brings the physician closer to the patient and improves the value of the physical exam.
Check out a MedGadget video exclusive with one of the founders of MedSensation, Andrew Bishara, in which he shows us how the glove works:
Briefly, the glove prototype has three pressure sensors, a vibration sensor, a microphone, a thermometer, and six degree-of-freedom accelerometer. The data is all integrated into a custom made desktop application, which can be seen in the video. Also, the engineers have set up a data protocol system for easy integration of new sensors. They also have included feedback capabilities that notify if the user presses with one of the force sensors too hard on the patient’s skin.
We probed Andrew more about the glove’s history and potential applications.
Ravi Parikh, Medgadget: How did you come up with the idea for the glove tricorder?
Andrew Bishara, MedSensation: We came up with the idea during Singularity University. When the tricorder from Star Trek was mentioned and we started discussing how long before the device would be capable of fully diagnosing a patient’s illnesses from afar. A question came to my mind of the components of the physical exam as part of diagnosis and I realized that we do not have a great way of digitizing touch in the medical field. Hence the idea of the glove tricorder.
Medgadget: How does the glove work?
Bishara: It works by integrating the data from various sensors to quantify components of medicine that were not measurable before. By digitizing touch and making it visible we can create a new type of imaging modality that is similar to ultrasound in that it is real-time, but adds more capabilities in that we can integrate other sensors that allow for a more complete picture of what is going on with the patient.
Medgadget: What is the current status of the tricorder in its development?
Bishara: We completed our second prototype of the device, but the data analysis side of making the device clinically useful needs a lot of work. This will likely also require us to refine our sensor choices in the near future. We are optimistic though both about our abilities to make these changes and the benefit of the glove to the clinical setting. We have an amazing team set up to work on this with six engineers and two medical students with a wide range of other skills.
Medgadget: What problems are you running into with development?
Bishara: Currently, the biggest problems we have run into is the calibration of the device and its location relative to the body. It is important to know what the glove is touching when the exam is being done to know if a lump is a beast lump, an enlarged lymph node, or a testicular lump. The different resistances of the tissue will help us with this, but it is not an easy problem.
Medgadget: What are potential future applications of the device?
Bishara: We have high hopes for this glove interface in medicine. We believe it can provide a paradigm shift moving forward in the clinical environment allowing for a new technological platform that allows the physicians to have all the amazing medical technologies available at the bedside. That way, technology will aid the physician-patient relationship instead of pulling the physician away from the bedside to a computer screen. With the development of better and cheaper sensors, we are confident that the glove interface will change the way that medicine is done in the future.
Check out more press about the Glove Tricorder: