Editors Blog – Electronic skin patches: beyond med-tech
Electronic skin patches have great potential in the healthcare sector. One company, In2tec, is proving to be flexible in design and application, discovers Caroline Hayes
In previous blogs, we have covered patches that can be used for healthcare and In2tec got in touch to tell us how it is developing this technology to help its customers realise the potential of flexible electronics in medical technology (med-tech).
In standard form electronic skin patches can monitor biology, such as glucose levels and activate attached components such as a diabetes medicine dispenser, in a comparatively unobtrusive form factor. Major benefits are to free up hospital beds, as patients can be remotely monitored at home using the patches, another benefit is that it allows the patient to continue with normal day-to-day routines.
Electronics design and manufacturing company, In2tec, is looking at ways to develop the technology, exploiting the small, lightweight and unobtrusive form factor.
Beyond the hospital
The potential for harnessing biological data without bulky, costly equipment is highly sought within many industries.
Beyond traditional hospital healthcare, the compact form and easily-implementable wireless data transmission make the technology ideal for situations where bulky medical equipment could not previously be carried, says In2tec, for example in-flight emergencies, search and rescue operations and disaster relief efforts.
Most patches are temporary, because patients are expected to see health improvements, and, when used to monitor athletes, the wearers will leave the field at some point. Some applications, however need more permanent solutions, for example treating long-term conditions, such as spinal cord injuries. Smart, wearable devices also make this method of treatment achievable. Devices can be implanted under the skin; the core principle is the same: using scaled down flexible electronic devices to deliver medicinal doses and complete data analysis.
By bringing long-term electronic skin patches to the average person, it is possible to enable better health tracking and self-diagnosis in a form that could be carried easily and conveniently, connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. With the world’s population growing, and with healthcare resources and budgets stretched, this technology may become vital to avoid increasing waiting times and reduce the reliance on the costly alternatives used today, says In2tec.
Commercial availability is only a matter of time. Ordering a patch kit online and downloading the associated app, could become the standard for medical self-diagnosis. This will be a first step, with measured cases being escalated to medical professionals. This would free up precious healthcare resources to tend to the severe cases, whilst ensuring diagnoses and treatment is widely available in a timely manner and at a controlled, lower cost.
As medical wearable devices become commercially available, more applications are being explored. New applications for electronic skin patches are surfacing daily, says In2tec, which has incorporated flexible wearable technology into medical diagnosis and prevention methods, monitoring and improving issues during sleep, sports analytics, and GPS tracking devices are just some of the areas it is exploring.