Feature
News
5/10/2002
08:35 AM
50%
50%

Nanotech May Aid Hospitals, Patients

John Halamka works in two very different worlds, and the promise of nanotechnology excites him in both. As CIO of CareGroup Health System in Boston, he has to consider how the technology might change the IT infrastructure of one of the country's largest hospital chains. And as an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he also sees how it could revolutionize the practice of medicine.

As a CIO, Halamka is most interested in the increased computing power nanotech promises. Hospitals used to be low-tech computer users, but today, they monitor and collect huge volumes of digital data, from patient information to images produced by MRI and CAT scanners. Doing so requires increasingly complex IT infrastructure and data storage that Halamka sees quickly outrunning today's computing power. "We've got a 40-terabyte system, growing at a rate of 60 Gbytes a day," he says. "I'm going to need the kind of processing power that nanotech is going to afford the CPUs and processors of the future."

As a physician, Halamka is intrigued by the potential for nanoelectronics to help him save lives and improve the quality of health care. Consider a procedure such as endoscopy, he suggests, in which a doctor has to insert an uncomfortably large hose, which holds a camera, into a patient to examine the gastrointestinal tract. Last August, the Food and Drug Administration approved a camera the size of a pill that patients can swallow, and Halamka believes even less-intrusive examinations will be among the first direct patient benefits from nanotech.

What gets mentioned more often, of course, is a much more far-out idea. Imagine being able to send medical robots marching through the bloodstream of patients to repair damaged arteries, excise cancerous cells, or drop drug payloads to an exactly targeted area. It's the distant dream of nanotechnology. Halamka doesn't expect it any time soon but says it might happen someday.

Just don't hold your breath. "When you put anything in the body, not only does it take a really long time to develop it, it takes a really long time to get approved," Jason Friedman, a senior associate for the JP Morgan Partners venture group, told a nanotech conference last month. "When startups approach us with those kinds of pitches, we say, 'Thanks. Call us in 10 years.'"

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.