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New Zealand Researchers Develop Temperature-Sensing Tech for Remote Monitoring for Diabetic Patients

Auckland is developing a digital health strategy and wishes to include as many stakeholders, experts, clinicians, and innovators as possible. That is why the government sought advice from The Medical Futurist, created a vision for health technology, and invites citizens to provide feedback on the upcoming strategy.

The New Zealand government approaches digital health strategy in a transparent and collaborative manner across the entire healthcare system. Moreover, rather than a rigid document, the strategy will imply evolving online content over time.

The Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) recently received Health Research Council (HRC) funding to conduct a pilot study in which they will test a portable temperature-sensing technology they developed to detect the early signs of foot complications in people with Diabetes 2.  The prototype technology is a low-cost device designed for home-based monitoring, to detect early signs of foot complications.

It accomplishes this by measuring temperature asymmetries. According to research, temperature differences between our feet – for example, if the ball of the foot in the left foot is warmer than the same location in the right foot – are indicative of blood flow compromises. This can result in foot ulcers and, in severe cases, amputation. There is currently no method for objectively assessing temperature differences in our feet.

The device has been improved to be more user-friendly since its previous iteration. Patients are positioned on a platform that detects and maps minute temperature differences. The Research Activation Grant funding will allow the researchers to test the device by collaborating with an Auckland podiatry clinic and real patients.

“Patients who come to the clinic will get their feet scanned, and we can use that data to improve the efficacy of the device,” says a doctor. “The next step would be thinking about how we can make them available – how to manufacture them in an affordable way.”

Type 2 diabetes now affects 9.3% of the world’s adult population and, according to the Diabetes Register in 2020, 8.1% of the adult population in New Zealand. Maori are 65% more likely to require major amputation, as per the New Zealand Medical Journal and the Ministry of Health.

People with Diabetes 2 must have regular check-ups on a regular basis, but their ability to do so is dependant on easy access to healthcare and support. It also frequently entails a lot of travelling, which can be difficult for people with diabetes, especially those who are at risk of or suffering from foot complications. The research, led by New Zealand’s Associate Professor will be done in collaboration with two other professors from both School of Medicine at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University.

The Lab has a human-centric approach to technologies, aimed at supporting health and wellbeing. “We hope in the long run, our device, will improve health equity in New Zealand, by allowing for at-home monitoring that will, in turn, allow for early intervention,” says the doctor. “And this would avoid the need the hospitalisation and surgery.”

Advances in digital healthcare technologies such as artificial intelligence, VR/AR, 3D printing, robotics, and nanotechnology are shaping the future of healthcare right in front of the human eyes. People must become acquainted with the most recent developments in order to be able to control technology rather than the other way around. Working hand in hand with technology is the future of healthcare, and healthcare workers must embrace emerging healthcare technologies in order to remain relevant in the coming years.

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