Mobile Healthcare

MOBILE HEALTHCARE: Bracelets keep doctors informed

Published on Dec 9, 2005

It looks like a slave bracelet, or a wristwatch with a clip connected by a slender wire. Actually, the watch-like device is not designed for fashion at all. Rather, it is a new mobile healthcare gadget that allows the wearer to have their physical condition checked regularly and remotely without the need to see a doctor face to face.

For those who don’t want to visit a hospital too often, or patients who don’t want to spend days and nights in an infirmary, this new development in mobile technology is coming to the rescue. Wichit Permpeankeat, Future Lab manager of Advanced Info Service (AIS), said the company, together with Ericsson and selected hospitals, would initially launch the new mobile health service to enable health checks be conducted wirelessly and remotely.

Patients will be introduced to the new lightweight monitoring device that transmits a variety of body data such as blood pressure through mobile networks to medical and professional centres, which can interact with the patient in real time and initiate urgent procedures if necessary. The system allows doctors to assess patients’ health while they are on the move, reducing the need for routine check-ups and letting patients lead more normal lives.

According to Ericsson, the system has been developed through two European Union-funded projects. The research project MobiHealth, which began in 2002, included the first trials of a mobile monitoring system developed jointly by Ericsson and the University of Twente in the Netherlands. The main focus of the initial trial was to ensure the idea was technically workable, had a stable connection, and included sufficient bandwidth.

Before commercial launch, the device was in trials. In the trial in the Netherlands, for example, the system was used with trauma patients and pregnant women; in Sweden it was used to keep track of respiration and physical activity; in Germany to monitor cardiac patients; and in Spain it was tested in rehabilitation and home-care scenarios.

Which said that the device incorporated wearable, non-intrusive sensors to monitor vital signs – everything from heart and breathing rates to oxygen saturation and muscular activity. Information of body data gained from embedded sensors is then sent down a thin wire for processing in a device on the patient’s wrist. When it comes to sending the data to a hospital, he said that the device would connect itself to a mobile phone via Bluetooth and then transmit the data over a GPRS or 3G network to the patient’s doctor or healthcare centre. The move demonstrates the advantages and feasibility of the use of 2.5G and 3G infrastructure in electronic health. On the one hand it also improves the life of patients, and on the other, it allows the introduction of new value-added services in the areas of health promotion and disease prevention, disease diagnosis, remote assistance, para-health services, physical-state monitoring and even clinical research.

He said that by providing patients with remote monitoring services, they do not necessarily need to take up a hospital bed or visit their doctor every day, but will still receive the same or an even better quality care. This will ensure that patients can be independent and take care of themselves in the home while pursuing a relatively normal life.

Introducing the new mobile health service, AIS has negotiated with various hospitals, including Bangkok Hospital and Bumrungrad Hospital, to offer the remote health checks to their patients. Since the new device is rather costly, the company is discussing with the hospitals leasing the devices to patients rather than selling them, and charging a fee based on the length of time they rent the device.

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