Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Technology diffusion from the hospital to the home

Another research-related question. Are there any studies of medical technologies that start out in the hospital, then move to the home?

I’ve been following developments in the RFID (radio frequency ID) space, and have noticed a number of cases of RFID being incorporated into hospital patient ID systems (those bracelets they put on you when you check in): U. S. Navy hospital ships are using them, and hospitals in Singapore have used RFID-tagged patient bracelets to maintain SARS quarantines. (Hospitals are also potential testing grounds for smart shelves, for using RFID for asset management– e.g., always knowing where all the defibrilators, incubators, etc. are. Given that hospitals have a lot of stuff they have to keep track of, and some of it is both extremely expensive and very mobile, one can see how this could be quite useful.)

Now, one of the areas people working on consumer applications of RFID think it could be of great use is in the health context. For example, smart medicine chests could keep track of the drugs you’re taking, remind you if you’ve missed a dosage, and bug you to take your entire course of a drug (something like 40% of people don’t finish all of a prescription).

My question is, are there studies of technologies or applications that are developed in the hospital, then make their way into the home? To what degree does the hospital serve as an incubator (as it were) for consumer products? I suspect that you could find examples from physical therapy devices, drug bottle designs, tools for chronic disease management, or maternity and infant care. But has anyone written on this?

[To the tune of Jimi Hendrix, “Day Tripper,” from the album BBC Sessions (Disc 2).]

1 Comment

  1. Oudshoorn, Nelly. “On Masculinities, Technologies, and Pain: The Testing of Male Contraceptives in the Clinic and the Media.” Science, Technology, and Human Values 24, no. 2 (1999): 265-89.

    I read somewhere about a genetics test to be used in the home – you take a sample of your kid and can determine if you’re the (biological) father. Strange stuff.

    Nutrigenomics is a technology that could move from the clinics to the home (or the supermarket). Still it is on the visionary stage. Look at Erika Check, “Consumers warned that time is not yet ripe for nutrition profiling” Nature vol 426, 107 (13 November 2003).

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