Health technology is a constantly advancing field, and in the UK, it’s big business. Analysis from Startups magazine found that in 2021, investment in global medtech startups was primarily driven by the UK, after economic heavyweights US and China.
One of the key technologies that is enabling medtech solutions is fiber optics. In this guide, learn what fiber optics are, their benefits in healthcare environments, and examples of how they’re being used.
What are Fiber Optics?
Fibre optics are glass or plastic fibers that are used to transmit information. This occurs by sending pulses of light – photons – down the glass or plastic core. When traveling down the core, it rapidly zig-zags down the length of the fiber, bouncing off the refractive cladding that encases the fiber at around 70% the speed of light.
After this, it’s either boosted by a signal repeater to continue on its path without loss of information or read by a photoelectric sensor at its desired destination. These sensors turn the photons into electrical information that a computer can discern.
An individual optical fiber is around a tenth of the width of a human hair and can carry around 25,000 phone calls at once, according to Explain That Stuff. To boost their capacity, fibers are arranged into cables – each capable of transmitting millions of calls-worth of data every second.
Why Do We Use Fiber Optics in Medicine?
There are lots of benefits to using fiber optics in medical environments:
- Better patient access – Fibre optics transmit lots of data, including video, which opens up the ability for rural or shielding patients to talk to their doctors over video chat.
- Improved emergency care – There are several devices on the market right now that use fiber optic technology to help paramedics quickly assess patient vitals while in the field.
- Patient monitoring – Fiber optics have been used to rapidly send patient health data (heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar etc.) to their doctors, remotely, allowing for quicker updates to care should issues arise.
- Patient data security – Fibre optics are much harder to hack than traditional copper cables, which can help prevent patient data from being stolen by cybercriminals.
What Uses are There for Fiber Optics in Healthcare?
All these benefits mean that are all several uses of fiber optic cables in the medical field. Here are some of them:
- Biomedical sensors – Fibre optics have complex physical characteristics that make them perfect for biomedical sensor applications.
- Endoscopic imaging – These devices use fiber optic camera to look inside a patient without having to operate invasively on them, helping with diagnosis and health monitoring.
- Telemedicine – Letting doctors analyze and work with patients remotely, faster than ever before.
- Video systems – Fibre optics allow more video and audio information to be transmitted, allowing the transmitting of data more widely across screens and intercoms in a hospital setting.
What do you think about the use of fiber optics in medicine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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