The importance of making each doctor visit as effective and beneficial as possible, both in low- and high-resource countries, is the subject of an increasing amount of research at the University of Illinois and worldwide.
In a review article, Stephen Boppart, a professor of bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering, and medicine, describes several optical imaging technologies for use in point-of-care (PoC) and point-of-procedure (PoP) settings, and provides the infrastructure needed to integrate them into widespread clinical use.
The initial patient encounter, no matter what resources are available, is relatively the same, Boppart says. The patient is examined by a healthcare provider with relatively simplistic instruments. Boppart argues that implementing more sophisticated, yet low-cost instruments will greatly improve the effectiveness and timeliness of each visit and primary care in general, and could additionally cut costs by eliminating additional laboratory testing.
“Because the PoC is critical for identifying disease early, an effective strategy would be to apply imaging technology at this front line, where diseases could be detected and appropriate treatment could be initiated more rapidly,” Boppart said.
One imaging technology Boppart highlights is a handheld optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanner for primary care imaging. The handheld unit with a built-in screen integrates both video-based surface imaging and depth-resolved OCT images. It can provide real-time microscopic assessment of tissues sites commonly examined in primary care, including the eyes, ears, skin, mouth, and teeth.
These types of technologies were originally conceived as low-cost, portable, yet effective PoC solutions for developed countries such as in the U.S., though Boppart argues developing countries could benefit from a new standard-of-care and better patient outcomes.
“I wanted to emphasize how there is a mutually beneficial role in technologies developed and integrated in both high- and low-resource settings,” Boppart said. “Developed countries, with increasing cost-pressures on healthcare and new medical technologies, can also leverage the efforts being made for technologies in developing countries.”
Read the entire review article for more information of the technologies Boppart covers, along with commercialization paths, challenges, and potential outcomes.
“You’ll find in the review a number of sections on translating technologies from the bench to patient to population, as well as various commercialization routes,” Boppart said.