To an extent, the PDA has replaced reference books and patient index cards. Its main capability has been automation of ancillary tasks, giving the physician more time to practice medicine. The medically oriented PDA is now a specialized tool for managing large amounts of information. Educational Research Laboratories, Inc., has released a number of texts and handbooks in electronic format that can utilize the Newton's built-in search functions, thereby making it easy to cross-reference information. In the realm of patient management, PocketDoc by Physik, Inc., helps automate clinical experiences by allowing information to be handwritten directly into the database and handed off conveniently. There are other PDA options, including: Med-Notes, allowing quick point-of-care collection of patient information; Medicine Series, accessing the complete contents of references for medical residents; and PocketDoc Practitioner, a mobile record system designed to mimic the workflow of physicians (Mansell & Cogle, 1996).
Now we would like to bring higher technology to the patient. Analysis of a patient's vital signs, specifically his heart rate and breath rate, serve as indicators of a patient's immediate general health. If this analysis were done on a continuous basis and monitored remotely, it could assist medical support personnel.
For example, for the soldier on the battlefield the Acoustic Sensor Division of the Army Research Labs (ARL) is developing a medical monitoring device which has a liquid filled acoustic sensor pad to detect these physiological sounds (Siuru, 1997). The sensor pad has close to the same density of the human body and the surface material is close to that of human skin. Thus, when placed in contact with the human body, the pad provides good acoustic coupling between the person and the hydrophones embedded in the pad. The hydrophones produce a low amplitude analog signal that is amplified and passed through an analog-to-digital converter to create a digital representation of the physiological sounds. This signal is processed in the wearable computer by digitally filtering to allow only the low-level heart and breath sounds to remain and performing Fourier analysis to separate heart and breathing signals for display if necessary (Tappert, et al., 2001).
Each patient could be equipped with such a medical status monitor that constantly reads blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and blood oxygen level. A built-in expert system could determine when the patient's condition warrants attention and, if warrented, automatically transmit an alarm.
The team activities will consist of the following:
Mansell, E. & Cogle, C. (1996), “What Can a Personal Digital Assistant Do for You,” Florida Family Physician, Vol. 46, No. 1, January.
Siuru, B. (1997), “Applying Acoustic Monitoring to Medical Diagnostics,” Sensors, pp. 51-52, March.
Tappert, C.C., et al. (2001), "Military applications of wearable computers and augmented reality," Chapter 20, pp. 625-647, in Fundamentals of Wearable Computers and Augmented Reality, ed. W. Barfield and T. Caudell, Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001.
Funding: A reasonable amount of funding for this project is available. Equipment should be determined as early as possible due to ordering and delivery time constraints.