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Remote Health Care Engineers

The Job

Remote health care engineers design and develop software, computer hardware, and medical equipment for the four main types of telemedicine: interactive medicine (which is also known as live telemedicine), store and forward, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health.

In interactive medicine, doctors and other health care professionals communicate with remote patients via phone consultations and video conferences. Store and forward allows a medical provider (such as a general practitioner) to share and review patient records and medical data in real-time with a specialist who is in another location. In remote patient monitoring, health care professionals monitor home-based patients by using mobile medical devices to collect data on their blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse, and oxygen levels in their blood, as well as other medical data. More complex equipment such as EKG monitors, ultrasound technology, and dermatoscopes can also be used to collect information to assess the patient’s health status. Nurses, medical technicians, and other medical support professionals may visit the patient’s home and use medical devices that can stream their data long-distance to general practitioners and specialists, who then analyze the information and provide a treatment plan to the remote medical staff. Data from wearable technology, such as FitBits, can also be captured via Bluetooth technology and displayed on a digital dashboard for physician review. In mobile health, medical professionals and educators provide public health information to people through mobile devices.

Remote health care engineers design, develop, test, troubleshoot, and maintain software, computer hardware, and medical equipment. At a large company, an engineer may be responsible for just one of these tasks, while an engineer at a small start-up often takes a project from an idea jotted down on a piece of paper to the finished product. For example, an engineer may want to develop a new type of software that features everything from live video conferencing and the ability to use imaging technology, to data storage and data analytics fueled by artificial intelligence (AI). The engineer conducts research to determine the feasibility of such a product, the potential costs for its development and production, the presence of existing products that would compete with his or her product idea, and other information. If the product idea seems viable and is approved for development, the engineer then meets with other members of the design team (AI experts, data analysts, programmers, web developers, user experience professionals, hardware engineers and other types of engineers, etc.) to create a plan to produce the product. Then they get to work. The team works on various components of the software (including its user interface and security features)—testing, troubleshooting, and revising the product as they go until they have completed the finished product. This may sound very straightforward, but there are many steps and many challenges in the software development process. It can take years to bring an idea for a complex software product to market.

Some remote health care engineers develop hardware and mechanical devices (or adapt existing technology) for use in remote health care settings. They design compatible high-resolution cameras and video cameras, microphones, webcams, speakers, and more. Some engineers develop mobile imaging or therapeutic equipment that is easy to transport and use in people’s homes. Others design home monitoring devices for the elderly or those with dementia that detect changes in normal activities that could signal a health issue. Still others focus on developing the software and hardware that medical professionals use to communicate with each other when discussing patients. There are also engineers whose main job is to develop software and hardware that protects both patient and the health care provider data from cybercrime.

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