Mobile will be a big buzzword. (Picture from Tunstall Healthcare.)
The Consumer Electronics Show, which presages consumer electronics trends every January, will devote an entire pavilion at next month's event to "digital health solutions," most of whom marry mobile devices to wireless networks.
Among the wares to be on display:
- Blood pressure and weight monitors from A&D Medical, marketed under the brand LifeSource, that connect their results to computer networks via Bluetooth or USB cable.
- Systems from IBM that interoperate with Electronic Health Records in hospitals and Personal Health Records patients can maintain on the Web.
- A full line of devices that clip on the finger and monitor vital signs from Nonin Medical.
- The Tunstall Telehealth Platform, which captures a variety of health indicators through wireless peripherals.
Many of the products emerging in the next few years will rely on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which has made its name collecting data on pallets of goods heading from factories to stores but is now priced low enough to go on per-unit orders.
Advocates insist all this is evolutionary, not revolutionary, but it is anything but. The idea of collecting data where a patient lives (rather than just from a hospital bed or doctor's office), delivering it via wireless links, and delivering orders based on that analysis, in real time, is a major sea change.
I first began covering this area in 2003, calling it Always On technology because applications literally live in the air, via wireless networks, and keep a patient constantly connected to valuable data.
I began my study after a beloved journalism professor of mine, Richard Schwarzlose, passed away of a heart attack while riding his bicycle. This is not an uncommon way to go, but heart attacks aren't really sudden. There are always indications, within a data stream, of coming trouble.
Seeking systems that could capture that data in time to save lives became an obsession with me, and I even spoke at Stanford on the topic, in 2004.
Unfortunately, it has taken a long time to reach the point where the devices I talked about were ready to market, and there are still questions to be dealt with in terms of privacy, standards, and which wireless frequencies the devices will use. Many early efforts in the field were highly proprietary.
But this is starting to change. It's very possible that, before my first heart attack, my doctor will know about. If that happens, perhaps, I'll see you on the other side of it.
That's what this revolution is all about, not just my next heart attack but yours, and your father's, and all the other conditions that data might detect and head off just in time to save lives.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com