A four year old is admitted to the hospital with a congenital heart condition. Traditionally, the hospital staff would connect him to a multitude of modern machinery to track blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing rate. Each of these systems would require wires that restrict the child’s movement and would be able to alert the staff if any of the systems drop below an acceptable baseline. Today however, a few small wireless sensors are placed on the child’s chest to track all of these things. Not only are there no wires, but the sensors work together to identify relationships and trends across this bio data, creating a predictive analysis of any potential deterioration in the child’s condition before any single reading drops to a dangerous level.
If this sounds improbable, it’s not. It’s actually being done in the UK at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital where 4 year old Maci was the first child to utilize the program.
It’s all an extension of the Internet of Things (IoT), but instead of allowing someone to control their lights from their iPhone, it is potentially saving lives and creating better patient outcomes in healthcare.
The implications of wireless connected sensors in a hospital environment are huge. They can communicate with each other, with hospital staff, and even with patient tracking systems as well. They allow patients to remain connected to vital monitoring equipment while moving through different departments and tests without having to be continually disconnected and reconnected at each stop. In short they increase staff efficiency and promote better patient outcomes. Now imagine the impact these same types of sensors have on remote healthcare services like telemedicine.
With the advent of sensor technologies, telemedicine goes way beyond a video conference with your doctor. There are a variety of sensors currently on the market and even more on the way, that all work to better assist healthcare providers with gathering important biometric data remotely. Some states like Texas are starting to put regulations in place that require a doctor to have either a previous in-person relationship with a patient and/or a way to perform a similar medical evaluation a patient would get in the office before prescribing care.
They argue, “How can a physician make an accurate diagnosis when they have no objective diagnostic data? All they have is what the patient has told them.” But sensors are turning that argument on its head by providing real objective data, the same data collected in an in-person exam.
Imagine how telemedicine can be enhanced by sensors like:
- Wireless, needle-free, glucose monitors for diabetes
- Shoe insoles that track amputees’ gait for prosthetic evaluations
- Stick sensors that monitor hydration levels
- Wearable and ingestible sensors that track ingestions and physiologic data
- Sensors that collect ECG and pulse oximetry data
- A connected asthma inhaler tracking dosage, frequency and location of use
- A breast cancer detection sensor tracking cell temperatures over time
- A sensor that can be placed on the forehead for 10 seconds to get heart rate, blood oxygen levels, temperature, and blood pressure with 99% accuracy.
The small sample of the sensors above are either on the market or in development today. It’s obvious the benefit this type of technology provides to remote health monitoring, especially to telemedicine.
With access to electronic health records and sensor data, a doctor can sit across from a patient virtually through an HD teleconference and make real-time diagnoses and care recommendations based on health history and current biometric data. Fitbit eat your heart out.
To the casual observer, all this data collection is happening invisibly. No longer does a patient have to wear large recording devices or battery packs. Sensors are now wearable, embeddable, and ingestible. They utilize new printing techniques and materials to make them comfortable, with some even deeming the resulting sensors as eSkin. Data flows to secure phones or mobile devices or to HIPPA compliant cloud based systems in a “store and forward” fashion for later access and review.
Given the state of sensor technology in healthcare, it’s time to get connected to your patients in new and exciting ways, whether they are inside your facility or at home. The IoT just got very interesting didn’t it?
For more than 20 years Avidex AV has provided innovative technologies that drive business outcomes for our clients. Is your organization looking for a new kind of technology partner? Connect with one of our Account Executives today to learn more.
About Bob Higginbotham
Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at email@example.com