Gajus - Fotolia
Hundreds of millions of people will be using internet-connected devices to monitor their health and provide automatic feedback to medical staff within five years, according to Jeroen Tas, CEO of connected care and health informatics at electronics giant Philips.
Remote healthcare monitoring will become as common as internet banking said Tas, citing trials that have shown it has the potential to cut healthcare costs by a third and reduce the rate of remission for some illnesses by half.
The company is working with healthcare providers and care homes to deploy the technology and will make services available directly to the public. It has been in talks with the NHS in the UK over the potential of internet-connected health monitors to cut care costs.
“The NHS is very interesting, they are payer and provider [of healthcare services]. If you are both payer and provider your goal is to keep patients as healthy as possible,” Tas told Computer Weekly.
There has been concern in the UK over GP burn-out, and long queues in hospital emergency departments, which could be avoided if patients were remotely monitored at home, he said.
Philips has supplied 700,000 elderly and vulnerable people with connected devices, which can alert family members or medical staff if they fall.
The company is using technology from software supplier Pegasystems to analyse data from sensor and medical records, and other medical data, to predict the likelihood of a fall.
“As you are getting up more slowly, your gait changes, we can intervene before a fall happens” said Tas, speaking at the Pegaworld user conference in Las Vegas.
Read more about mobile healthcare
Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust builds a mobile digital care record app, giving doctors and nurses access to patient information on iPads
Pfizer and IBM plan to work together on using the internet of things to monitor patients remotely to help in drug development and clinical therapies for Parkinson’s disease
Seven NHS ‘test beds’ will pilot tech such as wearables, apps, monitors and sensors to improve patient care
Philips is also working with the insurer Allianz Health in Germany, and has launched personal health programmes using connected devices to give people tools to improve their wellbeing.
The project will be provided as service to companies, to help their workforce stay well. “It is really about coaching you, to get you to where you want to be,” said Tas.
Another project, dubbed “ultrasound as a service”, allows doctors to scan patients remotely, diagnose them and provide a treatment plan.
Patients will be sent an ultrasound probe through the post, which they can connect to a tablet computer to perform the scan without having to go through their GP, and without having to wait for an appointment with a specialist.
“The GP will scan your heart, and a real-time cardiologist can do a diagnosis and set up a treatment plan in real time,” said Tas.
Tas envisions a future where teams of health specialists will be able to use technology to monitor the health of large numbers of people, and intervene to those most at risk.
The company has conducted trials of patients in intensive care, in which it has made use of algorithms in a cloud-based service to give nurses an accurate picture of the state of health of each patient.
The technology takes streaming data from the patient and matches that with medical data to identify those that may be at risk. Medical staff can focus on those that need immediate intervention.
Analysing the data in this way can help clinicians predict a cardiac arrest six hours before it happens and offer preventative treatment. “We can predict 24 hours advance, when the risk of cardiac arrest is increasing,” said Tas.
In New Delhi, India, for example, a small team has been able to monitor thousands of people and give medical advice to people living in remote areas, he said.
Remote monitoring will be particularly valuable for elderly people, with health conditions, allowing them to live at home, while still receiving medical care. The technology will be able to send alerts to family members if there is a problem.
“We enlist family members in the care team. Some of the escalations go to children, some to neighbour. Some can go to a GP, and to the emergency room if we see an emergency situation,” said Tas.
Other applications include detecting signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and reminding people to take their medication.
Data analytics technology is also able to predict the onset of strokes, allowing medical staff to send an ambulance with the right scanning equipment to take the patient to the right hospital that can offer the right treatment.
“We are combining personal data, not just medical records, questions you answer, social contacts that you make. We will track the deep data we get when we go in and take a medical image,” said Tas.
A study by Philips in Liverpool found that people were willing to share their data, and that 90% who took part in the monitoring service felt they were more in control of their own condition, he said.