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Mobile and Connected Devices to Drive Preventive Health

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 By Abhay Barhanpurkar, Solution Architect, Symphony Teleca Corporation

 There is an old saying ‘Eat the water and Drink the lunch’. This old saying has a deep meaning in today’s  preventive healthcare. With the changes in our lifestyle, and stressful life we need to change ourselves to  take care of our Personal health. Today’s technologies enable us to do what is right for us to do. But is the technology sufficient? Can it motivate us to make those long lasting behavioral changes? This article will discuss the trends in preventive Personal healthcare, how today’s connected health technologies such as Smart Sensors, Vitals Patch, Medication reminders, Fitness trackers, etc. are trying to solve some of the issues and challenges that still need to be addressed for tomorrow’s better health.

Smoking, diet, sedentary lifestyles, and other individual behaviors account for a substantial portion of all health care costs and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. Far more medical expenditures are paid out of pocket in developing countries.

In the next few years, innovations in mobile and connected device technology will fundamentally transform the health care landscape, providing new solutions to address chronic diseases conditions and revolutionize the way treatments are administered.  Future medical technology breakthroughs will build from the multi-disciplinary areas, including the information learned from deciphering the human genome. There will be a day when you will know better about your history, present and future health. 

The monitoring devices are becoming smaller, portable and mobile. Technology such as Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) is helping in developing miniaturized biological sensing devices. Using such technologies in wearable devices such as insulin pumps in Tele-health applications is helping us to stay away from the hospitals thereby reducing the cost and improving the quality of life of diabetic patients. Other examples include implantable diagnostics including patient vitals monitor, smart pills and wearable diagnostics.

Older adults prefer to age in place. Use of wearable Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) systems is becoming feasible for them to age and live in place and independently. Care providers can now monitor the health and activities of their elderly people using wearable activity monitors and fall detection technologies such the one developed by Wellcore and MobiWatch.

Medication adherence is a huge problem. There are technologies like Vitality, Medicine-On-time which can help you in complying with the medication. However, there is a scope of reducing the cost of such solutions.

As the cost of quality care is increasing, diagnostic tests are becoming affordable, but not the cure. Therefore people want to stay fit and are focusing on personal wellness programs using devices like FitBit and Nintendo Wii. Gym equipment such a bicycle or trade mill can talk with your mobile phone using ANT+ wireless protocol and one can track his activity and compare against goals.

Personalized medicine is gaining importance as it helps in identifying potential risk of a disease, make more informed medical decisions and increase probability of desired outcomes.  It is now possible to learn about your genome profile or your genetic risk for specific medical condition.

One of the challenges of today’s technologies is affordability. Secondly, recoding of your vital parameters is considered a time consuming activity. One has to measure his weight, blood pressure, heart rate, pulse rate, temperature separately and record it somewhere. Innovators are trying use of mobile handsets to perform vitals monitoring such as temperature, heart rate, pulse rate, BP monitoring instead of having a new device. A solution to automate the capture of data such as a wearable vitals patch is needed. No one system can work for everybody. Standards such as IEEE 11073 standard is making it possible to provide seamless connectivity of different systems and provide better and accurate health solutions.

Thirdly, people don’t necessarily use the system the way it should be. A PERS system may not be effective if a person is not wearing the pendent sensors. Seniors may not push the buttons when they are in a panic situation. Opportunity to get assistance in golden hour may be thus lost. Although you can monitor your health with required devices, independent living causes loss of social ties and increase feelings of loneliness.

Lastly, Gaining user acceptance and consumption is a problem for the preventive health. Very few solutions are sustainable. Preventive programs such as weight loss, taking medication on time are little successful.

Overall the challenge is behavioral and we need a solution which can motivate the user to take required actions. This is possible though mobile based friendly medication reminders, incentive programs, prizes, medical games and continuous education. HealthPrize is such a solution which rewards you for taking the medication.

Developing technology solutions that can help people feel connected providing the warmth and satisfaction of personal relationships and make long lasting behavior changes is needed through mobile and connected devices, social networking and incentive tools available today. 

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