Wellness technology, such as digital blood pressure monitors and electronic emergency alert systems, has been around for many years. But even with these advances that make caring for elderly and disabled persons simpler, the cost of monitoring and caring for patients in assisted living facilities and home care settings steadily increases. A new wave of technology may soon be entering the market that has proven to reduce care costs and promote aging in place: Think underwear equipped with blood pressure monitors and pills and capsules with microchips that send a message to indicate whether a patient has taken a medication.
Robin Felder, associate director of clinical chemistry and toxicology at the University of Virginia, advocates for the use of what she has dubbed “passive” technology for patient monitoring, citing a 2007 publication in the Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health which showed a staggering 74 percent reduction in the cost of caring for assisted living residents with the use of these devices. According to Felder, the key to the success of passive monitoring devices is that unlike current mainstream gadgets, such as automatic blood pressure monitors, passive devices don’t require any thought or effort on behalf of the patient or caregiver.
Felder says that the majority of blood pressure monitors (95 percent) go unused and stashed away in a drawer or closet. The reason, notes Felder, is that while they’re simpler to use, patients still have to interrupt their activities to use them. Felder spoke during a “Views from the Top” session at last week’s HIMSS conference, where she introduced a number of innovative technologies and products that will make wireless patient wellness monitoring (which Felder calls “wellness support”) a more realistic possibility:
- Everyday garments–yes, even your underwear–could function as blood pressure monitors and pulse sensors.
- Digestible microchips in tablets and pills (that will cost pharmaceutical companies about one cent each) to indicate whether a patient has taken the medication as well as provide data such as stomach pH and other vitals. If that’s not enough, this little chip will transmit the readings to a cell phone using Blueooth technology.
- Contact lenses and other eye inserts will have the capability to monitor glucose levels in tears in diabetic patients. These gadgets cost about a dime each.
- Everyday bathroom fixtures will measure your weight, body temperature and other vital signs. No more hiding from the scale!
All of the information gathered through these various devices will be integrated into a patient’s health and wellness records, providing a basis for targeted information to help patients lead healthy lifestyles. Felder terms this the “Medical Cloud,” or the concept of integrating multiple sources of data for multiple clinicians to collectively manage and monitor patients aging at home, in assisted living facilities or other community-based long-term care facilities.
Read the related article at MobiHealthNews.
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