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Posts Tagged ‘on board diagnotics’

Not everything Detroit has done in the last 20 years is wrong.

Most cars on the road today have a check engine light that comes on when something isn’t right. This is part of the “on board diagnostics”  which monitor, report, and record the status of any number of systems in a vehicle. When this warning light comes on, you simply take your car in to the dealership or a modern garage. A technician will open the hood and connect a computer to the electronics. Before you can drink a cup of really bad coffee they always have in the waiting area, he knows what is wrong. They can then start work on the important part of the job, the repair bill. Medicine would do well to emulate Detroit when it come to diagnostics. 

When you aren’t feeling well, you head to the doctor’s office. You assess your own basic body functions so you can tell the doctor what is going on with you. You might take your temperature and your blood pressure. You know if you are breathing too fast or if your heart is racing. These are the vital signs the nurse records so the doctor gets an idea of conditions “under the hood” once you’ve sat in an examination room long enough for him to wander in and see you.

To make this process profitable and often to diagnose less obvious symptoms, the doctor might order further tests. Blood and urine tests are common to check electrolytes, blood sugar levels, and the presence or absence of certain chemicals in the body. This is fine, if you have the time. By this I don’t mean a free afternoon to spend in the waiting room on a return visit. I mean if your life isn’t hanging in the balance while your blood is sent to the lab for chemical analysis.

Real progress in medical treatment could be made if you had “on board” a device that could be connected to a computer in the ER for instant readings of all the standard things like electrolyte levels, blood sugar, body temperature, respiration, etc. Of course I am not a doctor. I don’t even watch “House” on television. But I would imagine having this kind of information immediately available would be a tremendous advantage in the emergency room. And I bet it would help to know if and when these values have changed in the recent past. 

People walk around with pacemakers, insulin pumps, and who know what all implanted in their bodies. These devices make it possible for people to live fuller lives today. In the future, maybe everyone will walk around with an implanted “check body” device. Wealthy people could be connected to “On Star” and a professionally calm representative will send an ambulance for you when the systems signals you are having a heart attack. When your unconscious body is wheeled into the emergency room, computers immediately report the condition of all your systems. The doctor has the information he needs and can more quickly make the decisions that will save your life. Then he can get on with the important stuff – the bill. 

Of course, people will abuse this technology. They will hack into the diagnostics and self-monitor. They will use this information to make informed decisions about diet and excercise. They will become healthier and need medical intervention less and less.  What will the doctor do then?

Go golfing, and enjoy.

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