Advancing Healthcare through Connected Devices, Big Data, and Smart Cities
Published: August 28, 2015
Advances in healthcare for curing and managing diseases, extending life expectancy and improving overall quality of life have been significant. We might think that’s all good and it is; but in reality new challenges have surfaced.
While the average life expectancy of humans is on the rise, more and more people are developing long term health conditions that require continuous monitoring and ongoing treatment. These two facts have the potential to put additional pressure on already stretched healthcare systems and their ever-increasing costs. What if there was a solution for streamlining and lowering the costs of healthcare monitoring and delivery while improving the quality and making it more convenient and accessible to patients? Think Connected Devices, Big Data and Smart Cities – all part of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Healthcare and Connected Devices
The technology analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be more than 25 billion connected devices in the IoT. How many will be medical and/or monitoring devices? The proliferation of wearable devices that track heart rates, weight, sleep quantity and quality, daily steps, and even levels of workout intensity has more and more people paying closer attention to, and actively managing, their own health. For people with health conditions, sophisticated monitoring devices can now monitor and report levels of blood oxygenation, hydration, lung capacity, and blood sugar levels, Body Mass Index (BMI), mood - even capillary blood flow. The ability to dispense, adjust and control medication dosages is now available in the form of smart pill bottles. Finally, physicians are using their smart, mobile devices to deliver healthcare and even dictate “visit” summaries that are converted to text and stored in patient electronic medical records as part of their medical history.
Access to these advancements in healthcare allows many more people to follow their daily routine and activities, and even manage conditions from home rather than a hospital, improving their overall quality of life. For healthcare providers, being able to monitor patients and adjust medications and treatments remotely, improves the level of healthcare that can be delivered to a greater number of patients. Being able to dictate visit and discharge summaries ensure up-to-date electronic medical records.
Healthcare and Big Data
Big Data in healthcare has the potential to collect billions of points of data that can be used for population health management in three key areas:
- descriptive analytics – quantifies what has happened, including frequency, costs, resources
- predictive analytics - uses descriptive data to forecast what is likely to happen in the future
- prescriptive analytics - provides the capability to be proactive about pre-empting predictions
Here are just a few examples of how analytics data can be used in healthcare:
- Identify potential localized outbreaks of illness and epidemics
- Improve diagnostic accuracy
- Create personalized treatment plans
- Reduce infection rates
- Provide advanced decision-making support
Another interesting example is the use of socioeconomic data to determine the likelihood of someone showing up for their appointment. Some healthcare organizations arrange and pay for a taxi to make sure someone makes it to their follow-up surgery appointment rather than having their condition deteriorate to the point of having to be re-hospitalized. That’s thousands of dollars saved for the cost of a taxi ride.
Healthcare and Smart Cities
Urban residency is increasing dramatically and expected to reach 70% of the world’s total population by 2050. Smart Cities have an important role to play in the advancement of healthcare management. Their advanced sensor infrastructures provide continuously updated information on the following conditions:
This live data provides the foundation for Smart Cities to develop their own health applications that provide alerts and advice for citizens. For example, when existing air quality conditions have the potential to negatively impact known health issues, the app can suggest route alternatives so patients can avoid specific areas of a city. A health app connected to a monitoring device could also be instrumental in a physician’s ability to fine-tune a patient’s medical dosage based on their daily routes and activities.
Smart Cities are also testing and implementing systems that offer the elderly and patients a viable option for remaining in their homes. One such system includes a table, Skype and low-cost wireless sensors for video communications between patients and remote care-givers and to monitor and send alerts about safety-related situations such as when a door is opened in the middle of the night or a stove is left on for more than 15 minutes. In Norway it has been determined that a system like this can save over €85,000 for each person who does not have to enter a nursing care facility.
These are just two examples of the many ways Smart Cities are impacting healthcare delivery and management and improving the quality of life for their residents.
Smart Cities and Big Data
There is an enormous amount of data being collected via sensors in Smart Cities that can be used to identify trends and guide them in what future or expanded services they provide and where they will be located.
With the predicted increase of urban residency, Smart Cities will also need to expand their infrastructures and improve the interoperability of networks.
If trends indicate a high number of new residents who have health conditions that require specific living accommodations, Smart Cities will need to respond and ensure the right facilities are in place and services readily available.
Healthcare and First Line Software
As you can see, through the Internet of Things, healthcare delivery and management, as well as quality of life for the elderly and people who are chronically ill, can be significantly improved and enhanced with connected devices, Big Data and Smart Cities. Let’s take a look at what First Line Software has already delivered for their clients with monitoring devices and in Big Data.
First Line has used its experience with wearables and Smart City sensors to develop biometric sensors, including a sophisticated and soon-to-be-patented sensor that uses pulse waves to measure capillary blood flow. The First Line team of sensor experts is advised by a physician who also holds a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and can validate the efficiency and accuracy of this sensor. With the expertise FLS possesses in hardware, a range of sensors can be built using form factors appropriate to the specific application requirements.
A large healthcare provider in Denmark required the development of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to be shared by 40 hospital labs that serve 60 – 70% of the Danish population. The industry-leading Systems Integrator running the project selected First Line Software to build the system – based on their expertise in engineering. The system communicates with numerous tools and advanced instruments used to schedule tasks, collect and process samples, validate and approve test results, provide quality assurance data and production statistics, produce invoices and prepare reports. Given the breadth and depth of the functions, standardization of processes and the lab system was critical for ensuring quality control and accumulating accurate data to be used for data analysis and forecasting.
In Big Data, First Line is applying industry standards to create data mapping models for use on a range of data conversions by their client. Their client avoids the high cost of “one off” events and no longer has to rely on conversion programs. First Line is a member of the Object Management Group and the Observational Health Data Sciences and informatics (OHDSI) group for access to the most current open source industry standards and best practices in data conversion and modeling. These two groups have been instrumental in facilitating collaboration among relevant parties to establish enterprise integration and modeling standards and bring out the value of health data through large-scale analytics.
If your company or organization has an idea or opportunity for improving healthcare delivery and management through wearables, monitoring devices, big data and sensors, we invite you to contact us to explore how First Line Software can partner with you from ideation to implementation.
Image by First Line Software