Mohamed Basiony: What If Medical Devices Had Brains?

Medical devices are designed to perform a specific function—for example, provide life support, therapy, or diagnostic services. However, these devices do not recognize or know anything about the patient on the receiving end. What if they did?

To provide a “brain” allowing a device to distinguish between patients, the manufacturer would provide the medical staff with a number of electronic chips with the delivery of the device itself. Each chip would be assigned to a specific patient who would be receiving support or treatment from the device. The medical staff would use specialized software (delivered with the device) to program each chip with the patient data and his/her medical prescription.

Once inserted, the chip would act as a brain for the medical device, which would activate immediately with a greeting such as, Hi, John, I will provide your treatment today.” This greeting could be displayed or even spoken by the machine, providing John with added assurance that he is receiving the treatment prescribed specifically for him.

The device then would read and execute the treatment protocol for John.

During the treatment, the device would store on the chip (brain) the actual treatment data for John and all operation errors and alarms for a certain period of time. The device would analyze and compare the data, and alert the medical staff with recommendations for John’s treatment. The physician would accept or reject the recommendations. All actions would be stored on the chip so that clinicians could review that information.

Let’s apply this concept to a dialysis machine. The physician would write the treatment protocol for John, based on his condition. The medical staff would then program John’s chip accordingly. Once the chip is inserted into the dialysis machine, the machine would greet John and begin the treatment protocol. First, however, it would read the barcode of the dialyzer to be sure that it is the required filter for John. Once the filter was checked, the machine would start, adjusting the conductivity setting, electrolyte levels, temperatures, UF protocol, pressures, treatment time, etc., according to John’s prescription.

During the dialysis treatment, the machine would store the actual dialysate and blood parameters along with all errors and alarms occurring during the treatment. Over time, the brain would analyze and compare the data for a certain number of sessions to make recommendations, such as a change in UF protocol. Again, the physician would accept or reject the recommendations, and all such interactions would be stored in the chip for a certain period of time for medical staff revision.

In summary, adding a brain to medical devices, allowing them to recognize and react with patients, would enhance the entire medical process.

Mohamed Basiony is a senior marketing engineer and senior medical equipment planner at KJWW, an engineering consulting firm.

2 thoughts on “Mohamed Basiony: What If Medical Devices Had Brains?

  1. What sounds good as a generic idea has multiple pitfalls in its implementation. The key question is not whether or not the device has a brain, but how good that brain is. Don’t we all know people we would not rely on? Don’t they all actually have brains–“brainless” accusations not withstanding?

    In this regard, the device analyzing and comparing the the data skips over the process of teaching the device to do that, and the quality of the basis for and execution of that teaching. Providing the medical staff with recommendations also requires a firm basis and proof of reliability, even if the physician is supposes to then apply their own judgement, i.e., not rely on the advice provided.

    As for the device calling me by name (and would that be William, Bill, Dr. Hyman?), I for one would find that to be a silly trick rather than it instilling confidence.

    Finally, whether or not something enhances the medical process is ultimately something to be objectively demonstrated, not merely asserted without testing.

    • Sometimes, stating the concept clearly sets other minds towards implementing that concept. I see no problem with Mr. Basiony’s concept.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s