Patient empowerment: The rise of remote health monitoring. By Collette Johnson, Plextek Consulting

 

Insight

The rise of mHealth and consumer health devices is pushing healthcare delivery and monitoring out of the hospital and into the home. This change in patient focus is causing the medical industry to look closer at the future of the connected home and driving innovation in smart healthcare delivery. By successfully doing so, this new level of comprehensive care has the potential to not only improve people’s quality of life, but also to play a facilitating role in independent self-monitoring and health education.  CW Wireless Healthcare SIG champion Collette Johnson explores the applications, barriers and future of remote health monitoring.

Remote monitoring and the elderly

Remote monitoring for the elderly holds one of the most beneficial use cases, with huge potential for self-monitoring to provide a level of privacy and independence. Monitoring devices also allows health professionals to track simple aspects of activity to determine whether a health-related issue has caused a change in the norm i.e. if the fridge hasn’t been opened during the day, does the person need medical assistance.

One of the systems that address this issue is the Lively Safety watch system, this is a hub system with sensors that can be placed throughout the house and monitored remotely by a loved one. The sensors can be used across domestic appliances such as pillboxes and used to monitor falls. This is just one great example of the unobtrusive systems available in the home for the very near future.

Another example highlighting the strong use case of remote monitoring for the elderly, is the use of GTX GPS tracking technology. This is integrated in applications like Smartsole, which enables the elderly to be monitored for wandering via the insole in their shoe. While this kind of technology has more serious privacy implications, it offers peace of mind for elderly members that have may a tendency to wander off, allowing them to be easily found before injuring themselves.

 

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Smart healthcare for children

Another age group that will reap the benefits from smart healthcare is young children. This market is particularly leading the field in terms of innovation and market potential, as monitoring technology expands into the home. Most recently, specialist clothing such as the ‘Owlet Smart Sock’ has entered the consumer market to monitor a baby’s vital signs. The potential for this kind of sensor technology has been amplified by the release of the Apple Smart Watch, which uses the same LED based technology.

Another strong example of sensor technology bringing monitoring into the home for children is the ‘Mimo Smart Baby Nursery’. This ‘pod’ is placed into the baby’s onesie and can monitor sleep, temperature and position to help parents track and understand key conditions for optimal sleep of the child using smartphones and tablet devices.

The increased adoption of these devices is a positive sign for the industry as individuals come to terms with using and trusting technology devices to monitor and transfer data which has the potential to dramatically affect the health treatment or lifestyle in the home.

Stifling adoption: Barriers and regulation

One of the greatest barriers to complete widespread consumer use of self-monitoring devices is the issue with data protection. The collection of sensitive data is a necessity that is vital to the success of wearable health monitors, but there are inevitably consumer concerns based on their personal data being sold to third parties. Even more concerning perhaps is the potential for data leaks and the exposure of vital health data to potential employers, insurers and service providers that may put the user at a disadvantage.

The other ‘elephant in the room’ in this sector is the regulation for the use of such systems within healthcare organisations. Currently the lack of regulation is holding the market back, and therefore having a knock on effect in the connected home. Regulatory standards need to be addressed and implemented quickly to avoid restricting growth and innovation within the industry.

Looking toward the future

The future for remote monitoring within the connected home looks promising with strong potential of game-changing sensor and GPS technologies to change the way different age groups are taken care of. However adoption will be slow if the healthcare industry cannot get to grips with a suitable regulation that adequately protects consumer’s data. The interesting industry question, soon to be answered is; will consumer demand relating to the connected home change this, and more excitingly will we see the growing retail model for the healthcare market open up revenue streams and increase consumer exposure?