Emerging nanotechnology, mobile health connections show promise

Exciting things are happening in nanotechnology. That's no surprise. But what's bringing the topic squarely into the wheelhouse of hospital CIOs is a growing connection between nanotechnology and mobile devices.

I found a couple of interesting examples courtesy of Smithsonian.com and iMedicalApps. One, brings together nanotech, cell phones and mapping technology to diagnose infections on the fly. Called Rapid Diagnostic Tests, the new device was developed by researchers at UCLA.

The nanotech-embedded device uses strips that accept the patient's blood and are inserted into a plug-in on the patient's smartphone, which then reads the strip to determine if the patient has HIV, malaria, syphilis or TB. The app also instantly maps the patient's location, and streams the information to a global map that tracks cases around the globe.

The other intriguing example is actually not diagnostic, but technical in nature. It's called Power Felt, which incorporates "nanotubes" into a fabric; the nanotubes provide power for wearable sensors worn by the patient.

The power comes from subtle heat differentials in the ambient temperature, or the patient's body heat, according to iMedicalApps. The nanotubes are small enough to capture those small changes, collect them into large enough charges, and transmit them to the sensors, replacing the need for a separate battery.

There's hope that the heat differentials ultimately could power cell phones, according to iMedicalApps, but the technology isn't quite there yet. Right now, it only can add the equivalent of an extra hour's worth of power per day to the average phone. However, for less power-hungry sensors, it could become the entire power source.

In all, nanotechnology looks to be a powerful driver of change in mobile healthcare, and it's one I plan to keep a close eye on in the year ahead.

What I'm really wondering, though, is whether our readers--CIOs on the frontlines--are using any nanotechnology-augmented devices. If so, what kind? And how are they working out in the real world of providing health services? - Sara