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Introduction to Quantum Medicine

Cyber-Medicine and Internet Medical Web-Sites

"The growth of computers in medicine has also seen the concomitant growth of medical web-sites[1], increasing numbers of databases accessible on line, and expanding services and publications available on the Internet.  There are countless conversational areas on the Internet, like chat rooms and newsgroups, where people exchange messages on tens of thousands of subjects.

Medical information is often said to be one of the most retrieved types of information on the web.  According to a survey of October 1998, 27% of female and 15% of male Internet users say that they access medical information weekly or daily[2].

The ‘providers’ of healthcare on the ‘Net range from private companies offering medical products or medical information (news services, electronic journals, databases), individual patients and health professionals, self-support groups for patients,professional associations, non-governmental organisations, universities, research institutes and governmental agencies.

With the advent of the ‘Net for health provision, there has been the development of yet another branch of medicine – ‘cyber-medicine’.  This has been defined as “a new academic specialty at the cross-roads of medical informatics and public health, studying applications of the Internet and global networking technologies to medicine and public health, examining the impact and implications of the Internet, and evaluating opportunities and the challenges for health care”[3].  Alternatively, it has been described as “the medical advice services on the Internet”[4].  Like tele-medicine, the definition of cyber-medicine is quite mutable and is evolving with time[5].

Cyber-medicine is distinctive from telemedicine (although overlapping as the Internet can also be used as a medium for tele-medical use).  Telemedicine focuses primarily on a restricted exchange of clinical, confidential data with a limited number of participants, for the most part between patient and doctor or between doctor and doctor.  In the brave new world of cyber-medicine, “there is a global exchange of open, non-clinical information, mostly between patient and patient, sometimes between patient and physician, and between physician and physician.  Telemedicine for the most part is applied to diagnostic and curative medicine, while cyber-medicine is applied to preventive medicine and public health”[6]."

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Estonia's new e-healthcare strategy banks on cybermedicine

"Remote cardiac ultrasound. A telemedicine experiment in France (AFP/Scanpix)

Estonian e-Health strategy for 2020 foresees the development of cybermedicine, allowing doctors to consult and treat patients remotely. In the future, people may have sensors at home that transmit data straight to the computer of a medical specialist far far away. 

The strategy, approved by the cabinet on Tuesday, includes the development of digital healthcare areas like telemedicine, telecare and all types of m-Health services on primary, specialist and nursing care levels, as well as prevention activities, Postimees reported.

Cybermedicine is developed in Estonia to counter the decreasing number of medical professionals and the resulting problems with the availability of and accessibility to different healthcare services.

However, despite an ambitious strategy, the state is yet to develop an impementation program, a sustainable operating and funding scheme, and an electronic support network for cybermedicine in Estonia."

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Self-Monitoring Healthcare Devices

"Self-monitoring is the use of sensors or tools which are readily available to the general public to track and record personal data. The sensors are usually wearable devices and the tools are digitally available through mobile device applications. Self-monitoring devices were created for the purpose of allowing personal data to be instantly available to the individual to be analyzed. As of now, fitness and health monitoring are the most popular applications for self-monitoring devices.[35] The biggest benefit to self-monitoring devices is the elimination of the necessity for third party hospitals to run tests, which are both expensive and lengthy. These devices are an important advancement in the field of personal health management.

Currently,[when?] self-monitoring healthcare devices exist in many forms. An example is the Nike+ Fuelband, which is a modified version of the originalpedometer.[35] This device is wearable on the wrist and allows one to set a personal goal for a daily energy burn. It records the calories burned and the number of steps taken for each day while simultaneously functioning as a watch. To add to the ease of the user interface, it includes both numeric and visual indicators of whether or not the individual has achieved his or her daily goal. Finally, it is also synced to an iPhone app which allows for tracking and sharing of personal record and achievements.

Other monitoring devices have more medical relevance. A well-known device of this type is the blood glucose monitor. The use of this device is restricted to diabetic patients and allows users to measure the blood glucose levels in their body. It is extremely quantitative and the results are available instantaneously.[36] However, this device is not as independent of a self-monitoring device as the Nike+ Fuelband because it requires some patient education before use. One needs to be able to make connections between the levels of glucose and the effect of diet and exercise. In addition, the users must also understand how the treatment should be adjusted based on the results. In other words, the results are not just static measurements.

The demand for self-monitoring health devices is skyrocketing, as wireless health technologies have become especially popular in the last few years. In fact, it is expected that by 2016, self-monitoring health devices will account for 80% of wireless medical devices.[37] The key selling point for these devices is the mobility of information for consumers. The accessibility of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets has increased significantly within the past decade. This has made it easier for users to access real-time information in a number of peripheral devices.

There are still many future improvements for self-monitoring healthcare devices. Although most of these wearable devices have been excellent at providing direct data to the individual user, the biggest task which remains at hand is how to effectively use this data. Although the blood glucose monitor allows the user to take action based on the results, measurements such as the pulse rate, EKG signals, and calories do not necessarily serve to actively guide an individual's personal healthcare management. Consumers are interested in qualitative feedback in addition to the quantitative measurements recorded by the devices.[38]

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