Electronic skin patches are a technology with great potential, largely within the healthcare sector. This is because in standard form they can monitor biology; such as glucose levels and activate attached components such as a diabetes medicine dispenser, with a comparatively unobtrusive form factor.
The major benefits within healthcare is freeing precious hospital beds, as patients can be remotely monitored at home through the patches and allow the patient to continue with their normal day-to-day routines.
One of the companies breaking new ground in this area is In2tec, a flexible electronics design and manufacturing company, who are continually developing the technology to help their customers realise the potential for their applications.
Beyond traditional healthcare
Beyond traditional hospital healthcare, the compact form and easily-implementable wireless data transmission make the technology ideal for situations where bulky medical equipment could not previously be carried (in-flight emergencies, search and rescue operations and disaster relief efforts).
In fact, the potential for harnessing biological data without bulky, costly equipment is highly sought within many industries.
Most patches are temporary, because patients are expected to see health improvements, and monitored athletes leave the field. Although, some applications need more permanent solutions, such as treating long-term conditions, for example spinal cord injuries. Smart, wearable devices also make this achievable. Devices can also be implanted under the skin, and the core principle is the same: using scaled down flexible electronic devices to deliver medicinal doses and complete data analysis.
By bringing long-term electronic skin patches to the average person, it is possible to enable better health tracking and self-diagnosis in a form that could be carried in a pocket or bag, using connection via Bluetooth to a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. With the population growing, and healthcare resources and budgets stretched, this technology may become vital to avoid increasing waiting times and reduce the reliance on the costly alternatives used today.
Commercial availability is only a matter of time. Ordering a patch kit online and downloading the associated app, could become the standard for medical self-diagnosis, with measured cases being escalated to medical professionals. This would free up precious healthcare resources to tend to the severe cases, whilst ensuring diagnoses and treatment is widely available in a timely manner and at a controlled, lower cost.
As medical wearable devices become commercially available for medical purposes, more applications are being explored. In2tec have been have incorporated their technology within various applications during the last decade; such as medical diagnosis and prevention methods, monitoring and improving issues during sleep, sports analytics, and GPS tracking devices to name a few.