The need to begin address the high cost of medical care begins by removing it from fixed structures that continually demand upgrades, providing tools for patients to self-monitor, and providing a healthcare practitioner with state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to provide on-site quality patient care.
Students at the CDR and ID Thesis class have begun the development of a “WellCar” vehicle with advanced medical equipment and communications systems will advance healthcare treatment at reduced cost. Implementation is by a healthcare professional staff driving to the patient(s)’ location. There they will perform diagnostic exams and tests; interactively consult with other healthcare professional staff and doctors about the patient through the telecommunications systems and secure medical data transfer systems while being at the patient(s) location; and provide the needed treatments or care for patients.
The WellCar can be “dispatched” to geographic regions, thus reducing the time/effort of patients to travel to a medical center and reducing the need for the interaction with doctors, as the main patient interaction will be with a medical professional, such as a Healthcare Practitioner.
The WellCar project goal is to design a prototype that integrates advanced medical technology and communications systems into a vehicle utilized by healthcare professionals to take medical care to rural areas in support of patients with limited mobility, ethnic minorities with little adequate access to health care services, and patients unable to travel long distances to medical facilities.
Historically, medical delivery vehicles have been mobile clinics. Public Health Services use “mobile clinics” for immunization and wellness education. Future healthcare will be primary care focused on prevention-based model, remote monitoring of patients condition, and delivery of health care by a variety of medical staff that may not be located at a hospital or medical facility. Healthcare Practitioners are the new front line caregivers. The WellCar will equip these practitioners to better evaluate, consult, and deliver care without expensive hospital and outpatient visits.
Fueling the development of a WellCar is the fact that medical technology is becoming smaller and more adept at the diagnostics of patients. Technologies now fit into a smaller vehicle making service to rural areas easier and more cost effective. Medical companies developing new products are often focused on their product, and not how a number of different tools –each with a specific purpose in diagnostics and treatment, can be bundled. The design of the WellCar will evaluate new medical products and services implanted in a custom vehicle for rapid and cost effective deployment.
The design of the WellCar is focused on the needs of the patient and practitioner, the sourcing and bundling of newest medical technology, development of a telemedicine communication system, the security of the information, modularity of equipment, and the physical design –all integrating into this vehicle.
The project will evaluate medical devices provided to the patient to monitor his/her condition at home, and send the data to the medical center. This will facilitate the remote monitoring of the patient’s condition and allow the medical staff to know when to schedule a visit or make adjustments in the medication or treatment regime.
Students are also looking beyond the WellCar in their thesis project to develop ancillary components to include wearable sensor devices to help monitor patients, transportation of insulin, treatment of cancer patients, new tools for diabetes monitoring and treatment and more.
The project is being supported by over sixteen medical device companies and and various areas of the KU Medical Center. The communications connectivity is being sponsored by Sprint.
WellCar concept drawing by David Blizzard