Photo: Steen Brogaard

Increasingly important role for high tech in healthcare

Friday 17 Aug 18
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Anders Overgaard Bjarklev
President
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High-tech solutions will improve our lives as they are rolled out in the healthcare sector.

By Anders Bjarklev, President of DTU

Doctors and nurses are, naturally, the first to spring to mind when talking about healthcare staff. However, technological solutions are playing an increasingly important role in diagnostics, treatment, and care, and therefore, engineers and researchers who understand the use of technology for healthcare purposes will come to play an important role in the healthcare sector in future.

At DTU alone, about 700 researchers are currently working with technologies that are destined for use exclusively or mainly in the healthcare sector. Both patients and healthcare staff are already benefitting from their efforts. But we want to further boost this research.

On 1 January 2019, DTU is therefore establishing DTU Health Technology—a new department which will bring together several hundred researchers in a new environment with the best possible conditions for health technology research and education.

Both in Denmark and internationally, the life science industry is an important and fast-growing growth engine. And companies in this sector have a constant need for recruiting highly qualified employees with the right skills. We want to help.

Better life with new technology
Health-technological breakthroughs don’t just happen by themselves. Many years of high-level research precede the launch of new high-tech innovations for diagnosis and treatment. For example, getting insulin into the body in the right way, in the right places, and in the right quantities has always been something of a challenge.

This is a problem which DTU researchers are busy resolving. They have produced a prototype of a new pill consisting of hundreds of microcapsules containing microscopic quantities of medicine. When the patient swallows the pill, the gelatin shell does not dissolve until it has passed through the stomach, allowing the minute medicine capsules to flow out and attach themselves to the intestinal wall, delivering the medicine directly through the wall, where it can be absorbed by the body. In this way, the medicine is delivered directly into the body with maximum efficacy—and in much smaller quantities than would otherwise be required.

Safer diagnoses
Great strides are also being made at the moment within diagnostics and monitoring. Today, diagnosing patients suffering from heart arrhythmia takes many appointments with doctors and hospitals. However, together with a Danish company, DTU researchers have now developed a small sensor which can be placed on the skin above the heart, and which can easily be used by patients at home.
The sensor transmits online measurements of the heart rhythm, which opens up completely new possibilities for monitoring heart rhythm disorders. In future, general practitioners will be able to affix the small monitor which measures the patient’s heart rhythm in real time, and which may prevent some of the strokes currently suffered by elderly patients, in particular.

Obvious partners
We will probably never educate doctors or nurses at DTU, but we hope to get to work closely with them. When it comes to the medical frontier research, we will of course work with doctors, but we also see nurses as obvious partners.

They are the ones who will be using much of the new technology in practice. They will be handling the small appliances that can examine a single drop of blood by means of lab-on-a-chip technology, taking blood samples with a robot, and using the new scanners which can make diagnoses which currently take several days in a flash.

The new technology will increase the efficiency of doctors as well as nurses. And it will be for the benefit of both patients and society.


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