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How Emerging Wireless Techs Are Transforming Healthcare

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Heath care technology researchers are taking advantage of faster wireless networks and developing new "telehealth" sensors and devices as part of a booming new industry in health technology. ABI Research predicts that the number of wireless telehealth sensors in use will more than double by 2012, from 7 million today to 15 million in the next three years.

Intel and General Electric will spend a combined $250 million on home health technology research for telehealth products over the next five years. Intel says that its partnership will develop devices for assisted living as well as a program that would allow patients to send and receive health updates on their mobile phones like text messages.

"We are going to see more use of mobile phones to act as gateway devices," says ABI's Sam Lucero. "Essentially you'll have sensors on the body that will connect to your mobile phone and that will act as a gateway for the service provider." A current example of remote patient monitoring is the Center for Connected Health's SmartBeat program in Boston. SmartBeat monitors patients through a wireless device that connects to the Internet. The center can track a patient's progress by analyzing SmartBeat's data and send them regular alerts.

But health technology will be even better once it is compatible with universal wireless technologies such as GSM or WiMAX, says Partners Telemedicine's Doug McClure. "We've gotten 200 leading companies in the field to come together to make sure these devices are as interoperable as possible," he says. Moreover, by "making devices smarter," McClure says developers can make telehealth products easier for patients to use.

Eventually, transmissions from telehealth devices could be automatic, eliminating the need for patients to do anything at all. The Vitality GlowCap medicine container cap, for example, contains a wireless sensor that alerts health care workers every time a patient opens it.

From Network World
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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