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The Healthcare Engineering Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about Infrastructure, Healthcare Devices and Products, Information Management, and Patient Safety and Security. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Worrying About Your Health…and Everything Else

Posted May 13, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: cancer Health Worry

Worried about the state of the country? Worried about meeting a work deadline? Worried about being kidnapped walking through your neighborhood in broad daylight? Worried that you are worrying too much?

There is, according to research from the University of California, Riverside, a worrying sweet spot. Worrying too much may be paralyzing, keeping you from doing anything productive or helpful. Not worrying enough could leave you vulnerable and exposed to the unexpected. So where is this desirable middle ground?

According to the study, some worrying is actually productive and may result in preventive and protective behaviors. The right amount of worrying may benefit both mind and body.

An example of the motivating benefits of worrying just the right amount: Researchers found that women who worried moderately about cancer were more likely to conduct regular breast examinations and go for regular mammograms and other cancer-screenings.

Worrying prepares one for action, according to the research. If a person is concerned about an event or an outcome, they will create a “plan b” or seek out other ways to prevent the undesirable outcome or a worried-about result from happening, often making them successful problem solvers.

And the right amount of worrying isn’t only beneficial to your health. Researchers found that oftentimes people who report frequent worry may also perform better in school and in the workplace.

Worrying, as any sufferer will tell you, is by no means an enjoyable feeling and often thought (especially by annoyed non-sufferers) to be a negative behavior.

However, worry can be a positive motivator: Worrying about completing tasks on time at work may motivate you to finish your work in a timelier manner. Worrying about the state of the country may motivate you to become involved in your community. Worrying about being kidnapped in broad daylight may…uh…motivate you to run faster.

What kind of worrier are you?

Image credit:

Alon / CC BY-SA 2.0

7 comments; last comment on 05/14/2017
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Drones Deliver Lab Samples Between Two Swiss Hospitals

Posted May 09, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Drone logistics vendor Swiss Post and drone maker Matternet are contributing to the project, which aims to modernize transport delivery, using autonomous drones to replace the current on-road system. The integration of drones will make transport faster and more efficient, and will improve patient care.

Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Healthcare Technology eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox.

8 comments; last comment on 05/13/2017
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Go Ahead! Pick Your Nose!

Posted May 06, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: Dental Care immune system Nose

Remember your parents constantly reminding you to remove your finger from your nose? Remember the abject horror of the adult who had the great misfortune of witnessing your nose-picking? Remember the blood flooding your cheeks as you shamefacedly removed your finger?

Now, if you are so inclined, you could sit down and write a letter (or letters depending on how avid a nose-picker you were) to that adult explaining that your nose picking was all in good health.

According to a recent study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are health benefits to picking and eating the contents of your nose.

Among the health benefits: Mucus is full of healthy bacteria that helps in the fight against respiratory infections, stomach ulcers, and HIV.

Researchers describe the nose as a bacteria-collecting filter. Ingesting the mixture, according to research, gives it medicinal qualities upon reaching the intestines, and it helps to strengthen the immune system.

Another benefit to picking (and consuming the contents of) your nose is that the act may ward off cavities. Researchers believe in the connection so much so that they are investigating ways to create synthetic mucus for use in chewing gum and toothpaste.

Researchers are also making the case that those picking their noses might be happier because they are better in tune with their bodies.

Do you think we are likely to see the stigma associated with nose-picking disappear in light of this research? Will it become a healthy activity?

Image credit:

Fscopel / CC BY-SA 4.0

17 comments; last comment on 05/22/2017
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Engineering Undergrads Develop A Revolutionary Seizure Detection System

Posted May 04, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes

Engineering students at Rice University recently developed a system designed to detect and possibly stop epileptic seizures before they occur. The system first feeds neurological signals into a customized piece of hardware via intracranial electrodes. The hardware uses a custom machine-learning algorithm to monitor for signs of seizures. If a seizure’s detected, the hardware relays neurostimulation signals back to the electrode to stop the seizure from occurring. The team’s project was ultimately successful, detecting every seizure at least two minutes before its occurrence, with 3.9 false positives per hour.

The research took place as part of a competition Rice calls the Engineering Design Showcase, in which the students took the top prize and won $5,000. A team member called the project a “vertically integrated” one, meaning that the team mixes upperclass and lowerclass undergraduates and uses grad students as mentors.

On a personal note, my daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy last year, and prior to that I knew almost nothing about it. I’ve since learned that it’s one of the most common neurological diseases (it affects 1 in 26 Americans) and is often difficult to treat. Many cases respond to medication, but the side effects of anticonvulsant drugs can be extreme and include personality changes, mental deterioration, and hormonal problems. Up to 40% of epilepsy cases are refractory or “intractable,” meaning the seizures do not respond to medications. If alternative therapies like ketogenic diet and cannabinoids are ineffective, these patients face the removal of offending parts of the brain via surgery, which is completely successful in only 60-70% of cases.

In light of these statistics the system developed by the Rice team is a remarkable breakthrough. Interestingly, it’s not the first time Rice students have made developed an innovative epilepsy tool. In 2013 students developed a seizure detection belt that monitors electrical conductance on the skin and respiratory rate to alert a caregiver that a seizure is occurring. Since that time a few companies like Empatica have commercialized similar seizure detection watches that many parents of pediatric epilepsy patients find useful.

Still, these devices only alert a caregiver that a seizure is happening in real-time. Although the new system might be five or ten years from commercialization, having a system to detect seizures and stopping them before they occur would be a game-changer for the millions living with an untreatable neurological condition.

16 comments; last comment on 05/08/2017
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Let's Take a Nap!

Posted January 14, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD

I can distinctly remember nap time in kindergarten. While all of the other kids seemingly complied with the teacher, laying down on their mats and closing their eyes, I would feel a bolt of resistance course through my entire five-year-old body. I would remain electrified until we were offered milk and cookies as the drowsier kids started coming to. Countless decades later, I would do anything for someone to insist that I take a nap (or, better yet, to wake from said nap to a plate of cookies).

Lucky for those in the 65+ age bracket, that is exactly what is being recommended in a new study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, which found improved brain function among senior citizens who napped every day for one hour.

The study looked at over 3,000 participants with varying sleep schedules: some taking regular daily naps and others not napping at all. The study revealed that of the 3,000 tested, fewer than 60% took regular daily naps.

The value of those naps was measured in how the people performed on simple tests upon waking up. The researchers administered memorization tests and word recall exercises and also required participants to recreate simple geometric figures.

The results of the study showed that those participants who napped for an hour a day performed better on all of the simple tests administrated than those participants who did not nap.

Unexpectedly, two other categories of “napper” also demonstrated declining mental abilities. Those participants who napped for less than an hour and those participants who napped for over an hour showed a four to six times greater deficit in cognitive skills than those who napped for an hour.

Alarmingly, participants who took shorter, longer, or no naps at all also seemed to experience a decline in mental abilities that is typically characterized by a five-year age increase, according to researchers.

While the study applies to the 65+ age bracket, it is hardly a stretch to imagine that the benefits of napping wouldn’t be universal. In recent years, large, well-known companies have started to realize the value of rest and its direct benefits to the company (i.e., improved employee performance, satisfaction, safety, productivity, etc.) and have been offering its employees “nap times” in places designated for resting.

So, while this study has its detractors, with other researchers insisting that a nap could disrupt our circadian rhythms and increase the incidence of insomnia and other sleep disorders, I think most of us (save a few hyperactive five-year-olds) could use a nap.

Do you nap as an adult? If offered as an employee benefit, would you nap in the workplace?

20 comments; last comment on 01/17/2017
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