I recently had the pleasure of interviewing an engineering student regarding a project he is working on which combines Healthcare, Telemedicine, and IoT. The focus of the project was to solve a problem for heart patients. There are actually two problems that his project solves:
Hospitalization is very expensive. Every day that you can keep a patient out of the hospital will save the patient and the healthcare system lots of money. While this sounds great on a balance sheet, practically speaking, we still need to look after the patient. He needs 24/7 monitoring. Imagine an elderly person who lives alone. What happens if he has a heart attack in middle of the night? Currently, you would have 3 options: (1) Keep him in the hospital. (2) Move him into an assisted living facility. (3) Hire a live in caregiver. We’re trying to keep him OUT of the hospital. It can also be very traumatic to force an elderly person out of his house, or even just invade his privacy by hiring a live in caregiver. What if you didn’t have to make this decision? What if there was another way to ensure the safety and care of your homebound relative, without impacting his privacy or independence?
A fully integrated telemedicine solution might be just what the doctor orders!
With a smart textile solution, the heart monitor leads are embedded in the fabric of the clothing, allowing our patient to go about his life in a comfortable manner, while still providing 24×7 care. If a spike is detected on his EKG, a nurse is immediately notified and he will receive a phone call to make sure everything is ok. Perhaps he’s just under stress. Or maybe, it’s something more serious. Regardless of the cause, he will be well cared for. A smart blood pressure monitor will keep track of the periodic measurements and notify the caregiver immediately at the first sign of trouble.
A smart camera will keep an eye on your relative to ensure he is getting adequate fluids. When he drinks a glass of water, the camera will register that and store it in a database. You can then “ask” the camera how much water he drank today, and the camera will respond. Are you concerned that he forgot to take his medicine? Just ask the pillbox and it will tell you! If he forgets to take his pills by a certain time, you will receive a notification. You can even check on his blood pressure and blood sugar by messaging the respective in home medical devices. Should his body weight get too low, the scale will notify you!
If an emergency were to take place, for example he collapsed, the smart camera will send out a notification to a distribution list of caregivers, such as his nurse, doctor, hospital, ambulance, and children, so that the proper emergency medical care can arrive as soon as possible. In the meantime, first aid can be administered via a robot which can perform tasks such as CPR and emergency defibrillation, increasing the chance of a successful recovery. Keep in mind, that the purpose of all these sensors and technology is to be notified the moment his vitals START deviating so that we can take immediate corrective measures and prevent an emergency from occurring in the first place.
There are no medical analytics. It would be extremely helpful to have 6 months worth of data on a heart patient. The doctor would have a detailed analysis on the patient’s heart rhythms, and know exactly what’s considered normal and what to be concerned about. The problem is, that people only go to the doctor (and especially the hospital) after they get sick. Therefore, doctors don’t have this level of detail to work with. As we can imagine, it would be cost prohibitive to keep someone in the hospital for 6 months just to collect data! Telemedicine and IoT solves this problem. The IoT sensors continuously collect the data without impacting the patient’s quality of life or finances. When a doctor or hospital visit is finally required, the doctor will have the benefit of working with the most accurate data possible in order to ensure the best outcome for the patient.
One thing to consider as we integrate more and more technology into our lives, is that while rare, Internet outages do occur, even with secondary and tertiary backups. When designing a solution for a life and death situation we need to consider implementing a failsafe protocol. For example, you can design a system that provides a regular heartbeat between the caregiver’s and patient’s automated systems, which pings each other at regular intervals (such as every 30 seconds). As soon as that link is severed, both, the caregiver and the patient get notified immediately so that they can manually reach out and contact each other via more traditional means, such as a phone call.
In conclusion, we are living in very exciting times where technology continues to play a bigger and bigger role in our lives. By embracing the latest in technology, we can solve tangible problems that will save us money, help us live more comfortably, and may even save our lives.
My question for you is, what kind of disruptive technology are you embracing in your life?
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