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Internet of Things Part 9: Mobile Health and the Internet of Things

By Don DeLoach • April 8, 2014

This is the ninth in the series on the Top 10 areas to probe when considering the Internet of Things.

I think mobile health may be the coolest of the cool Internet of Things use cases. For some time, I have been observing the growing emphasis on consumer use cases for the Internet of Things. Consumer use cases are really only one small element of the huge impact of IoT uses cases including mobile health.

For most, mobile health is usually equated with wearable fitness like a Fitbit (I happen to use the Bowflex Boost personally, which I quite like). But mobile health is so much more. It is enabling technology that literally changes the equation on human life. I know that sounds dramatic but let me take you through three examples of the impact of mobile health on the human.

Improve heart health through extended reach and reduce costs.

Heart disease is a huge issue for the health care system. if you are having heart issues, there a couple of approaches health care professionals will take:

  • Get to the hospital and get hooked up to monitor for a few hours or maybe a few days. Not only is this is a costly approach, it is also a very controlled environment that doesn’t really reflect or replicate the real life daily circumstances that may have led to a particular episode.
  • Or, one could take the approach that the only way to replicate real life is…well…real life. I recently had a conversation with Drew Palin, Chief Medical Innovation Officer of Preventice. Preventice is an mHealth platform provider.  Drew explained how they can provide a chest mounted heart monitor that you wear for an extended period of time. The monitor records biometric and other data on a granular level granular level, synchronizes and sends that data to your physician via a Bluetooth link to your phone. The quality of the data you get under these circumstances is rich and useful. The ability for the patient to engage in this “observation” in minimally intrusive, and the cost is so much lower than any sort of traditional in-house observation. Net result: higher quality health care provided at a much lower cost with far greater reach.

Enhance quality of life through a re-imagined model for assisted care.

Assisted care does not have to always mean nursing home.  With mobile health and other IoT initiatives, the elderly could continue to live at home with the benefits of connected monitoring capabilities including: their actual home, pharmaceutical intake (drug caps that report on their opening and closing) and biometric monitoring and analysis. There has been a great deal of discussion, especially in the United States as of late, about the cost, quality, and availability of health care. My mother passed away in 2005 and my father lived until last year at the age of 91. His greatest wish after my mother died was to be able to continue to live in the very house where I grew up. Thankfully, he was able to do just that, but so many are not so lucky.

Enhance diagnostics and preventative medicine with big data.

When you gather data in greater depth across a broad range for a lengthy period of time, you can see patterns and gain insights that would otherwise be obscured.  Just like when you have a thorough physical, your doctor will listen to you breathe and tap your knee to check your reflexes. Then she will order all kinds of blood work and things like stress tests and EKG’s. More data is better. More data is also costly, intrusive, and seldom readily available to the average person.

The key is to make it easier and more cost effective to get that data. This is the “Big Data” idea.

Sometimes the emergent patterns that make a difference are revealed by the correlation of lots of different data types and sources. Understanding your blood pressure, even over a longer period may still only reveal limited information. However, combine the blood pressure data with blood sugar levels, temperature, exercise levels, food ingested, and even external information like ambient temperature or pollen counts and you now have the potential to paint a very different and potentially a very accurate predictive story that can trigger action to prevent illness.

I am accused sometimes of being overly passionate about the Internet of Things. I don’t think it is a cure all for everything, nor do I think the evolution and maturity of this technology will be without significant challenges. However, addressing these challenges and finding solutions for them will change life as we know it and healthcare is a prime example.

With the advances brought about by the Internet of Things, especially with mobile health, we are already seeing the remarkable possibilities.  With enough time, money and, perhaps most importantly, enough will, these possibilities; the notion of accessible and affordable healthcare, quality and dignity of life will become practical for all.

Get Bloor Group’s whitepaper ‘Exploiting the Internet of Things’.

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