The internet of healthcare things: Can an app save your life?

We are undergoing a transformation that is impacting how we live. But it also can impact whether we live or not. Rio Bowerman tells his story about what a more connected system might have been able to do.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

Before I give Rio Bowerman the stage, I need to introduce this guy to you. Rio is the son of a childhood neighbor of mine - and a brilliant young lad with a huge future. I was so taken with him and his potential that back in 2009, I had him write something on my "other" blog PGreenblog about social media and millennials.

Yet, what he has to say here and now is even more compelling - partly due to what's happened to him since. Let's just say, not only has he been through something difficult and life threatening but a long and slow road back. None of this has deterred him. He is still a brilliant young guy with a huge potential future. But I'm going to let him tell you his story - and also please listen to his suggestions because they are germane to what the Internet of Things can do for health services - and not in the abstract.

Take it away Rio.

The statement, truth is stranger than fiction, could not be more applicable to my life. Though it seems like science fiction, in fact, I have been on "true medical journeys" that have opened my eyes, first hand, to how improvements in our medical system -- using new media, and all available communication channels -- could make a difference, and could have made one in my life.

So what's my story?

Okay, I like to think of myself as an outside of the box, 24-year-old, quintessential millennial thinker. I've had super health, and the life of Riley. Great mom, great friends, and a full ride to Arizona State's W.P Carey business school. I had the whole enchilada of a super life! Until 2013, when I fell 57 feet off a third floor balcony at Arizona State directly on to my head. I woke up in the ICU unit, with only bruised ribs, and a torn spleen.... I was lucky. But I also found out I have a serious case of epilepsy.

Fast forward to January of this year: I didn't seem so lucky any more, though of course I was grateful I was alive at all. But, I had multiple blood clots in my lungs, and deep vein thrombosis in my left calf; all stemming from a prolonged seizure that had lasted more than an hour. My prognosis was grim. Yet, here I am, still having some problems, but ready and able to get on with my life and career and am excited about my possibilities.

All of this conversation is a precursor to some observations I was able to make over the last two years about the application of new media in a medical setting - something that goes well beyond just being "cool" and in fact, could save some lives. I've been able to see so many opportunities, for advancement in new media in a medical setting which can make our lives simpler, at least by systemically improving healthcare's multi-faceted, omni-channel communication.

With all my medical surgeries, treatments, doctors, and ER visits, the lack of medical technological advancements has been as plain to me as the nose on my face. My journey to recovery, hopefully (now) begins, and my enlightenment continues. Yet, with all the difficulties, I think the tools to support a new paradigm for medical communications and patient engagement exists already.

Just some common sense on what that is, please!

Here's a scenario: For the last seven months, I've made weekly pilgrimages to Barrow's Neurological Institute - a medical compound the size of five large square city blocks. What if, using contemporary technology - sensors and apps -- they could provide not just the patient, but their family and in fact, all visitors, and even the medical staff, with a lower stress environment?

Here's how I see that looking at 10,000 feet:

1. iBeacons: From the moment the end user steps onto the hospital campus, their phone in their pocket will be ready to deliver a slew of new age "i Services," iBeacons tracking their location and movements.

2. NFC Connectivity: For staff: at the simplest level, nurses are reminded to use hand sanitizer (beeps when nurse walks in a room where the sanitizer is needed); accesses badges to automatically open doors according to access level, using whatever device they use for their work.

3. Internet Services: iPads, for staff, would give access to medical records in each patient's room; for patients, would allow them the convenience to order food, watch Netflix, e-mail clinicians, etc.

Here's a real-life medical situation -- involving me -- that could have a different result if I (my device) was connected to the correct APP/Web Portal:

Imagine a fully integrated app, brought to you by large state/nationwide healthcare conglomerates/ networks of providers, clinics, and hospitals. What would this look like, and why, and how, would it benefit me, the patient, other patients, staff, clients, consumers and family members? It certainly would have provided me with a slew of app-driven "healthcare centered" iApps and Services.

For instance, at the point of noticing I am "not feeling 100% myself", I could have entered a live chat with one of the clinicians for advice. A five-minute triage Q&A interaction could determine whether it was necessary to come to the ER pronto, or see my family doctor in the morning.

Let's suppose, after the symptoms are explained in the live chat, the clinician recommends that I to come to the hospital for an immediate visit. I am then pre-registered in the ER's waiting cue saving both my and the hospital's time. From this point, I am ready, triaged, registered, and prepared to leave for the hospital.

Now I press the "get directions to ER" button on the App, and I am routed the fastest way to the hospital from my current location. As soon as I metaphorically "Step" on to the hospital's campus, I am automatically drawn by iBeacon technology to the healthcare organization's App. (Just as when I walk into Starbucks or the Apple Store, and thanks to iBeacon, it knows I are there.) This could immediately bring up the hospital campus map, which makes finding parking, the ER, and patients' rooms much less difficult for everyone involved.

This App would reduce urgency all around, and provide patients, patients' families and friends, and hospital staff with a faster, more accurate level of comfort and ease. Sometimes, easy it is not, for any of us, in that particular setting. I only wish it was implemented, for myself -- knowing first hand, how many times it would have come in more than handy!

I have so much more ahead on my medical horizon, with so many more life changing ideas to make all of us happier campers in a not so comfortable scene, with much needed access and advancements, just waiting to tap into the lives of patients, families, visitors, providers, and staff through the proper channels of new media.

This is all do-able -- all exciting.

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