Specialized medical monitors are designed for respiratory, cardiac, neurological, hemodynamic (blood) measurements and other areas of medical interest such as radiology and critical care. Multimodal patient monitors capable of serving many different functions are frequently used in combination with anesthesia systems during surgery. Patient monitors come in several forms, including compact personal monitors worn by the patient, bedside monitors and networked patient monitors. In a hospital, networked patient monitors can report the data from several patients to a central monitoring station where hospital staff can see the data for several patients at a time. These networked systems are very useful for keeping electronic medical records up-to-date as well.
Monitors can also be used at home for patients who do not require hospitalization. There is a wide variety of patient monitors for sale that can be used on an outpatient basis and they vary in design and price. Which one is recommended will depend on the condition being treated, and the cost of the unit will depend largely on the quality, technology and capability of the device. When properly networked, some home patient monitors can transmit information directly to a clinic or doctor's office, allowing a physician to constantly monitor the patient's condition. In addition, a networked patient monitor could reduce the time needed for medical personnel to respond in the event of an emergency.
Medical monitoring has come a long way in recent years, with newer digital monitors replacing the older analog machines. Due to limitations in technology, several older monitors would have been needed to perform the functions of a single modern multi-parameter system. Additionally, the displays themselves were somewhat more limited and often did not include an audible warning. However, even these antiquated systems were a substantial improvement in medical technology, because they eliminated the need for a nurse to continually measure a patient's condition manually.
As medicine advances patient monitoring will need to keep pace, and the industry might well be on the verge of a revolution in scientific development. One of the most exciting ideas in recent times involves the science of nanorobotics (or nanobots). Nanorobots are tiny theoretical machines that could be introduced directly into the patient's body and programmed to perform a variety of medical functions, including patient monitoring. At present, these devices are the subject of science fiction, but who knows? Someday they might even replace drugs as the medical treatment of choice.