Growing demand for home medical equipment, health care is changing lives

Advanced semiconductor technology has made medical devices smaller and more powerful, even at home. For patients, this means more and more convenient treatment, fewer and fewer outpatient visits, and lower medical costs. But to be used at home, medical devices must be simple, secure, and even able to withstand misuse, and can distinguish between correct results and incorrect procedures.

Due to the aging population, the demand for home healthcare equipment is expanding. According to the World Health Organization, the population over 60 has reached 650 million in 2006, and this number is expected to reach 1.2 billion in 2025. Semiconductor development currently focuses on home and handheld consumer electronics devices in the entertainment and communications arena.

This type of design experience and even some devices are useful for the implementation of a new generation of home healthcare devices. When combined with high-performance instrumentation-grade sensors and data acquisition devices, the end product can be built into medical-grade systems and easily deployed at home. Precision semiconductor products include reliable high-performance sensors, amplifiers, and data converters that extract precision signals and convert them into digital quantities; and embedded processors that perform complex analysis of acquired signals.

• Sensor

Current diagnostic measurement systems are based on integrated solutions that monitor clinically relevant specific target substances. The measurement system includes a detection layer that identifies the target material and generates biochemical signals that can be measured by the sensor. An example of this technique is blood glucose testing. The enzyme on the glucose test strip selectively converts glucose into a measurable substance. During this process, the electrons produced are proportional to the glucose level.

These electrons can be measured using a current based meter. Silicon sensors include capacitance-to-digital converters, impedance-to-digital converters, LED-based photonic systems, photodiodes, MEMS-based motion sensors (for measuring acceleration, gravity, and tilt) and gyro sensors for rotational detection.

• Data Converter

This signal processing module is often used with high precision amplifiers to drive sensors and digitally convert them. Products such as ADCs can achieve low power, high precision systems. Successive approximation register (SAR) and sigma-delta converters are well suited for the resolution and measurement signal bandwidth required for these systems.

• Embedded processing and wireless communication

To provide compact, battery-powered medical diagnostic and monitoring applications outside of the clinical environment requires high performance, low power, low cost, and secure embedded processing. The embedded processor analyzes the acquired signal, first verifying the quality and converting the signal into medically usable information, then passing the results to the patient in a usable format while controlling the device.

The processor can also be used to manage wireless (or wired) connections to transmit patient data to the physician. It is not difficult to imagine that watch-type devices can be designed to monitor vital signs in a non-invasive manner. If developers want to improve performance at the lowest system cost and power consumption, consider combining DSPs and microcontrollers such as ADI's Blackfin. ADI's recently introduced radio SoC combines data conversion, RF and 32-bit processing to deliver a highly efficient wireless connection.

The ADuCRF101 (see Figure 1) is ideal for medical applications that must acquire, measure, and transmit data quickly in high-noise environments without the need to consume large amounts of battery power. For example, a wireless Holter or telemetry monitor worn by a patient must be very small, rely on long-term battery operation with low power consumption, and have a high enough level of performance to continuously transmit vital signs of the patient. The ADuCRF101 supports these applications and also enables patient monitoring outside of the hospital environment.

Existing home healthcare equipment

Examples of home healthcare equipment are the night lung monitor Wholter and the individual asthma assessment device Wheezometer, both of which were developed by the Israeli company Karmelsonix. The Wholter and Wheezometer meet the needs of 48 million asthma patients worldwide to assess and control conditions that previously could only be treated by surgery or hospitalization.

An effective asthma assessment must be accurate and accurate in order to provide a basis for appropriate medical care. In the past, only spirometers in hospitals or operating rooms had such high reliability. To transfer this medical technology from hospital to home, Karmelsonix uses Analog Devices' Blackfin DSP and other sophisticated signal processing devices to ensure that asthma patients have accurate and reliable assessment information about the “wheeze rate” (an important asthma attack indicator).

The Wheezometer uses a proprietary, non-invasive array of electrical pulmonary acoustic sensors that captures the signal through the AD8608, a four-channel low-noise operational amplifier, and digitally converts the signal through a six-channel simultaneous sampling 16-bit ADC, the AD7656. This signal is then fed into the ADSP-BF524 for characterization. The voltage monitor ADM708 ensures that the circuit operates at the correct signal and power levels.

This signal chain, combined with Karmelsonix's design experience and software, meets medical standard performance goals at home and on the go. Many home health devices are simpler, but equally important for saving lives and preventing accidents. As shown, emergency responders can use ZOLL Medical's PocketCPR to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in patients with heart disease.

The device measures chest compressions and provides audible and visual feedback to first aid personnel, making it easy to adjust strength and frequency in a timely manner. PocketCPR uses the accelerometer ADXL311 to accurately measure the motion of the device in the hands of emergency personnel. The simpler application is the FallSaver patch that attaches to the patient's thigh for up to two weeks and continuously monitors patient activity.

The device uses the ADXL323 and ADXL335 accelerometers to provide motion information in digital format for fast analysis of motion patterns.

As the demand for home medical devices grows, so does the need for medical device designers to become more complex and demanding, not only to reduce size, improve ease of use, but also to improve the performance of next-generation portable medical devices. . These new system-level requirements mean that analog semiconductor manufacturers have to face the challenge of building modules for the next generation of products.

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