Forgetting to take your meds or not having time to get to the gym no longer cut it as excuses for not maintaining your health. With all the mobile health (mHealth) products available today – from wearable devices that measure vital signs to pills that send texts about missed doses to a host of gaming apps to track fitness or disease management activities – consumers have an arsenal of resources for promoting their well-being.
It’s a lack of motivation, not information, that often inhibits patients’ efforts to manage their health – i.e., you know where the gym is; you just don't feel like going. And if the device or program is hard to understand and/or requires a lot of work to implement, it’s about as useless as a busted treadmill.
“Patients are far more engaged in their care plan or wellness program when their own personal data is presented back to them – the feedback loop – in an easy-to-understand format,” stated Dr. Joseph Kvedar, founder and director of the Center for Connected Health, in an interview to be published in the May issue of Embedded Computing Design. “They can track their progress, see how their lifestyle choices are affecting their health, and learn how to best manage their health and wellness.”
Members of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance are helping enable this feedback loop in mHealth applications by offering products that ensure reliable real-time connectivity. For example, wireless modules from Telit Wireless Solutions are deployed in a wide range of mHealth applications, including Vitality GlowCaps pill bottle reminders, pomdevices’ Sonamba senior well-being monitor, and MedApps’ HealthAir personal health monitor, which uses Telit’s GE865-QUAD module to automatically send medical data to a patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR), allowing users to manage and record their health regimen.
By providing a platform for immediate data transmission, Telit modules allow physicians to monitor patients remotely, reducing costs and decreasing response times to immediate medical problems.
“These devices are used as communications channels, employing cellular connectivity where other wireless connections are unavailable, as in a senior’s home where setting up and managing a Wi-Fi network could prove to be complicated and unreliable for a less tech-savvy individual,” says Mike Ueland, senior vice president and general manager of Telit Wireless Solutions North America.
The choice of wireless module for health care applications depends on the functions of the device itself, Ueland says. For an in-home health monitor that transmits a large amount of data such as video, data speed is critical while network coverage may be less of a concern, as the device is not considered portable. For pill reminders or other small mobile devices that send less data, an embedded module that provides reliable network coverage and also features a compact form factor is crucial. Devices that will be tested in clinical trials, possibly on an international scale, should use a module like the Telit HE910, which offers global compatibility in 3G mode, Ueland says.
Hardware vendors developing telehealth products also must consider the requisite international RF certifications, as well as the type and number of interfaces to use in their designs.
“It is desirable to have as many wireless connections as possible,” says Advantech medical product engineer Joseph Chung. “However, as more wireless connectivity options are built into the system, antenna placement and antenna cable routing have to be carefully designed to ensure optimal reception and no electromagnetic interference.”
Advantech’s line of health care infotainment terminals enables patients to engage in their medical treatment by offering 10/100/1000 LAN, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, and RFID. Using the multifunction touch screen, patients can browse online to read up on health and dietary information, view health care service transactions, or simply have fun and watch TV or play a video game. The Internet connectivity and 2 megapixel camera also allow patients to communicate with family and friends via VoIP or video chat.
Besides helping patients get educated and involved in their care, Advantech’s infotainment terminals and medical tablets enable physicians and nurses to access EHRs, lab results, prescription orders, and other info from a hospital database. The built-in network connectivity options also allow physicians in different locations to consult in real time on a diagnostic assessment or medical procedure, thus improving the quality and coordination of patient care, Chung says.
Offering Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity in a slim iPad-like design, the new DMS-SR06 medical tablet from Advantech leverages the Intel® Atom™ processor N2600 to provide 1.6 GHz processing power and enable fanless, low-power operation. The 9.7" XGA multitouch screen tablet supports USB 3.0 and Windows 7 Professional and incorporates a smart card reader and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 for additional security.
DMS-SR06 medical tablet
The ICEFIRE2 Mobile Clinical Assistant from IEI Technology, another mHealth device based on the Intel® Atom™ N2800 1.86 GHz processor, supplies Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3.75G wireless connectivity. Powered by the Windows 7 Embedded OS, the medical tablet is equipped with a 10.4 TFT XGA touch screen and offers a 1D/2D barcode reader and 13.56 MHz RFID reader. With dual-mode input (digitizer plus multi-resistive touch screen) and other data collection functions, the MCA can help health care practitioners improve their productivity and increase the accuracy of collected information.
ICEFIRE2 Mobile Clinical Assistant
While these types of mHealth devices make health care more efficient and manageable for patients and doctors, their strict requirements make the design process more difficult for embedded engineers. For ideas and suggestions on how to address these medical device design challenges, visit the Intel® Embedded Community, and look for telehealth coverage in the May issue of Embedded Computing Design.
To view other community content on healthcare applications, see “Top Picks – Medical.”
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance. IEI Technology and Telit Wireless Solutions are Associate members of the Alliance.