Advances in medical laboratory science technology have occurred rapidly and are projected to continue developing at a similar rate. As technology continues to expand, it’s important for medical laboratory scientists to remain educated on trends within the industry. As of late, there has been a movement towards health care more centered around the patient rather than the provider. This includes small handheld devices and desktop equipment that can be used for testing outside of hospitals, some even at home by the patient via home based health monitoring systems whose information can be transmitted through smart phones to centers where it is processed rather than the patient being in an expensive facility. To help further educate future and current medical laboratory scientists on these advancements, let’s examine 5 key trends in medical technology for 2017.
Point-of-care testing (PoCT) has progressed significantly over the past decade, and with changes in the current healthcare environment, point-of-care testing is likely to increase in efforts to decrease costs of care, as well as provide care in the comfort of the patient’s residence. PoCT technologies are utilized in either of the following two methods:
·Small Mobile Devices: often small enough to be carried by hand, mobile devices can provide medical laboratory scientists with qualitative and quantitative data.
·Laboratory Instruments: Although still large, laboratory instruments are no longer as bulky or complex as they use to be. Modern laboratory instruments may be specialized to analyze critical care, as well as immunology.
Automation has been popular for medical laboratory scientists as a result of the pressure of producing quicker results, improving patient care and minimizing costs. One specific example of automation that is currently being developed is automated specimen separation. Blood mixing with plasma has been a major issue for medical laboratory scientists, and separation can be a strenuous process. Efforts to implement automation are underway to increase efficiency and lower costs.
Biobanks preserve biological specimens for future use, which may include transfusion, transplantation or R&D. Blood banking is the most common use of biobanks, but recent additions have included seeds, cells and tissues. With their provided capability for conservation of biological data, biobanks have become indispensable for medical laboratory scientists, as well as life and environmental scientists and biotechnologists. In fact, a recent study of biobanking, based on professional publications from 1939 to 2014, show that over 50,000 individual authors have published in the field, with a distribution of 42% in Europe, 33% in North America, 13% in Asia, and the remaining throughout the rest of the world.
Home-based Monitoring with Wearable Sensors
With an increasing aging population that commonly have a number of health conditions, there has been a progressing trend of home-based monitoring in efforts to reduce costs and allow patients to remain comfortable in their homes, as opposed to expensive facilities that may be miles away. Wearable devices have greatly helped this trend, as they can monitor and record real-time data on physiological conditions that can be transmitted via smart phones, tablets or similar devices. Such devices are now being designed into elastic bands, attire, and can even be fastened to the body. Current and future medical laboratory scientists should look further into leveraging wearable sensors to develop faster results without having to restrict a patient to staying in what, at times, may be an uncomfortable healthcare environment.
Drone use for specimen transportation
Drones are expected to become more widely used to transport specimens as they can quickly transport small amounts of samples to and from laboratories without having to deal with typical transportation delays, such as traffic. Additionally, a 2015 study found that samples of blood could be sent via drones for testing without being adversely affected by the harsh conditions that may be experienced during drone transportation. A more recent study, conducted in 2016, showed that microbial samples could be sent without changing the rate of microbial due to additional elements such as pressure and temperature changes. It’s also important to note that drones have already been used in parts of the developing world to deliver medications and other supplies to remote areas. In fact, in July of 2016, samples from Madagascar villages were sent by drones to laboratories for analysis for disease detection.
Whether its automation or leveraging drones for transporting samples, these key trends within medical laboratory science are projected to be important not only for 2017, but far into the future as well. Likewise, advancing technologies are likely to be built upon the foundations of these progressive technologies, making care more available, efficient, and cost effective. Medical laboratory scientists should remain educated on these trends and be prepared to utilize them as they continue to be an integral part of the healthcare system.
The University of Cincinnati’s online Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science program has been designed for clinical laboratory technicians (CLTs) and medical laboratory technicians (MLTs) who are currently working in the field. Our online MLS program combines the quality and high standards of UC’s campus-based program with the flexibility and convenience of state-of-the-art distance learning. It is a smart choice for busy professionals who want to advance their education while also continuing to meet personal and professional responsibilities.