When a stroke hits, every second counts; it’s estimated you lose about two million neurons each minute after the event, and the longer you go untreated, the worse the damage to your brain. That’s why a Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU or MSU) could be a lifesaver.
Usually staffed by paramedics, a nurse, and a medical imaging specialist, among other emergency personnel, an MSTU is essentially an ambulance dedicated to the fast diagnosis and treatment of strokes. When a dispatcher calls in a stroke, the MSTU is mobilized to the patient’s home. Once it arrives, the team is able to determine whether a stroke is caused by a blood clot, administer a drug to dissolve that clot, and then bring the patient to an appropriate hospital.
Early studies of response time are promising, and there are currently units in Cleveland, New York, Houston, and Denver, with more coming every day. In fact, one source reports that by late 2017, an MSTU will be available to more than 40 percent of major-city emergency rooms.
If there’s one advancement medical experts and the press seem most excited about, it’s interoperability, or, the ability of health care information technologies—like a hospital’s digital systems—to communicate with each other. For those who have wondered why the billing department can’t get on the same page as your doctor, this is the breakthrough for you.
Set to debut in 2017, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a kind of tool dedicated to saving money and lives by improving the speed and efficiency of health data transferal. Essentially, instead of transferring entire documents, which causes a backup, FHIR transfers specific bits of health care information—a word, a code—from one place (ex: your doctor) to another (ex: billing). This means health care workers don’t have to go through tons of extraneous information to get the data they want, making your experience faster and your records, more accurate.
On a more personal level, the technology will make it easier to create health apps, as well, which could filter down to patients in years to come.
7. Ultrasound Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 current seniors will die with the condition or another dementia. And while we’re still a long way from a cure, there’s one encouraging treatment set to begin human trials in 2017: ultrasound therapy on amyloid plaques, which clump around neurons and are believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s.
Back in 2015, Australian researchers found the sound waves generated by ultrasounds cleared amyloid plaques (pictured) in mice, 75 percent of which performed better on memory tests afterward. There was no damage to the surrounding tissue, and the treatment could be much cheaper than drugs that perform similar functions, reports The Wall Street Journal. Of course, duplicating the results in humans is a much harder endeavor, thanks to our thicker skulls and more sophisticated brains. Still, researchers are optimistic about the long road ahead.