Health monitoring technology marches on
Here’s quotes from a Physorg.org article about a monitoring device being developed in New Zealand that measures a bunch of physiological factors and uses your smartphone to communicate the data back and forth.
Researchers in New Zealand have developed a prototype Bluetooth-enabled medical monitoring device that can be connected wirelessly to your smart phone and keep track of various physiological parameters, such as body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and movements. The prototype could be extended to include sensors for other factors such as blood glucose as well as markers for specific diseases. The connectivity would allow patients to send data directly to their healthcare provider and receive timely advice and medication suggestions. […]
The team adds that the mobile phone can be used as a gateway to further relay patient health data to a remote database via the mobile network for remote diagnoses. “Any medical instructions can be sent back instantly to the mobile users,” the team says. “The use of standard development tools makes it possible for patients to easily use everyday mobile devices for their personal health monitoring and assessment anytime anywhere.” They add that, “Bluetooth and mobile networks enable wireless communications among mobile users, medical professionals and other healthcare givers in an easy, secure and efficient manner.”
Sounds pretty impressive. The sensor technology is galloping ahead, but what I wonder is how are all the protocols and middle-ware parts of the system to be worked out? Usually the device marketers talk vaguely about sending the data to your doctor or “provider” for them to use in diagnosing or monitoring your condition. I can’t imagine, however, that current physicians or existing ancillary staff are going to be sitting around to review data coming in from patients. Doctors sure don’t have the time to look at anything like near-real-time information. It would be prohibitively expensive if doctors even tried. So who would review the data? Physician assistants? Some new breed of technicians? Would there be direct feedback to patients?
It seems to me that a really solid, large scale computer system as an intermediary is going to be essential in all this health data schlepping. The user (patient) is going to need a profile that includes full health history, family history, and evolving baseline data against which new information can be compared. What’s normal? How does the incoming stream get interpreted for anomalies, short-term fluctuations, long-term trends and other things that would indicate somebody ought to take a look? What are the red flags for the individual? What are the action triggers in the data, and who does something when an important event is detected? If it’s a DIY proposition for users, where are the quality, easily-accessible medical information sources they can call upon to support them?
So it seems to me that very insightful and reliable information systems as well as all kinds of protocols between users and their health care agents is just as crucial as all the little gizmos in this field of mobile health monitoring. But I don’t see anywhere as much buzz about those things as I do about the easy part, the monitoring technology.