Several leading trends will drive health and healthcare in 2013, but nothing on the order of mobile wireless devices, particularly wearable devices equipped with sensors, web connections, or both.
The ground work for wearable monitoring devices began a few years ago with the development of new, standardized wireless technology,the miniaturization of wireless connectivity and the recent introduction of the Bluetooth 4.0 standard. That enables these devices to run for as long as a year on a single battery rather than having to be replaced every couple of weeks.
Dominating the market are the numerous glucose monitors, fitness and heart-rate monitors. Here are additional examples of products that will be introduced over the next 12 months that enable patients to be in charge of monitoring their care with a simple device that they carry in their pocket, or wear on their body, 24/7.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved an iPhone case that can monitor a patient’s pulse and heart rhythm. This $199 device, commonly known as the iPhone ECG, works with either an iPhone 4 or 4S. It will be available to health professionals in the U.S. in January.
To use the device, patients place two fingers on the back of iPhone case and rest them on the large electrodes. The case can also be pressed directly against a patient’s chest for ECG, (electrocardiogram) monitoring, purposes. Data from the electrodes wirelessly pass from the case to the iPhone, where it is analyzed or sent to the cloud for storage. The iPhone case runs on its own coin-cell battery, which lasts for aproximatelhy 12,000 scans and 30 seconds in length.
The FDA has also approved a blood pressure monitor that measures the systolic and diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate of an adult individual, at home, by using a non-invasive technique in which an inflatable cuff is wrapped around the upper arm of the individual and connected to a smartphone.which transmits the readings to a physician or nurse. This device requires three AAA batteries and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The BP readings are logged and time-stamped for record-keeping purposes. The readouts can be emailed to a physician or synced to a patient’spersonal health record that is stored in Microsoft Health Vault.
Another smartphone, developed on the Android platform by a Swiss company, includes several medical sensors that power seven health tests, combined with wellness-related applications and cloud-based services. The health tests are operated by placing a finger on one of the sensors, allowing users to measure, track and analyze their medical measurements, take corrective action, plan meals, activities and more. The tests include one-lead ECG, body temperature, blood glucose, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, body fat percentage and stress levels as expressed by heart rate variability. Each medical test is presented as an application and, in addition, there are diet applications and programmable reminders for medications. All collected data is automatically and securely saved to a remote server and can be retrieved from the cloud for follow-up anytime, anywhere. Results and historical data can be shared with doctors, family or others on the user’s request through e-mail or text message.
Several new pill boxes with alarms, timers, and monitors will also become available in 2013. They insure that elderly patients take the right pill at the right time in the right dose. There are new wireless phones under development with back lit screens and easy to read numbers that enable elderly home-bound individuals to call their caretaker, call 911, or to connect with a provider with the touch of the one button.
Continuity of Care and Care Coordination, A Common Thread
Throughout 2013, we will see the increased adoption of EHRs, health information exchange and cloud computing for aggregating and analyzing health data, as the provider world moves toward meeting Meaningful Use Stage II deadlines. Care coordination and continuity of care will be recurring themes as hospitals strive to fulfill the goals of accountable care organizations. 2013 will also see more and more patients become engaged with their care, and team with their providers to figure out the best possible treatment route for their individual situations.
Robots to Flourish in 2013
Healthcare robots will also be more universally deployed including: robotics surgery, intelligent prosthetics, robotic motor coordination analysis and therapy. Also under development are robot-assisted mental, cognitive and social therapy devices, as well as robots who will assist home-bound individuals with menial tasks and health monitoring. Robots are good at precision, durability and repeatability and can facilitate minimally invasive surgery and remote tele-surgery, bringing efficiency and safety to procedures that heretofore were difficult and fraught with risk.
As we head into the New Year, these exciting technologies will help to empower and engage patients and provide them with a better, safer health care experience.