Medical technology is moving from the clinic to the home, even as the healthcare industry struggles to adjust to the home-based business model, one expert told Design News.
"The challenge in remote patient monitoring today is not the technology," said Steven Dean, global healthcare segment lead for Freescale Semiconductor. "The technology has been available for at least a decade. Now, it's more an issue of the reimbursement climate."
Speaking on a recent Design News radio broadcast, "Embedded Angles for Medical Products," Dean said that memory, processing, and communications technology have reached the point where many patients could be adequately monitored at home. He cited examples of big companies that have joined the home healthcare technology trend, including Verizon, Motorola Mobility, Qualcomm, and others. He also pointed to a recent study by Juniper Research that says the number of patients monitored via mobile networks will reach three million by 2016.
One of the fast-growing areas in home heathcare is cardiac monitoring, Dean said. More than 500,000 blood pressure monitors are expected to be wirelessly connected to the Internet by 2013. Meanwhile, a variety of medical equipment manufacturers are working on cardiac technology -- including heart rate monitors and electrocardiograms (ECGs) -- that could fit inside a device slightly larger than a conventional Band-Aid.
"Years ago, you'd see (cardiac care) in the clinic, then you saw it in the home, and now you're seeing it connected to your caregiver via wireless means," Dean said.
Technical challenges remain, however. He said engineers will have trouble packing an entire ECG into a bandage because ECGs use multiple leads, which are typically placed across the chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. He said the leads can't be eliminated, but added that the central processing portion of the device can be packed into a smaller package. He pointed to several companies, including Corventis Inc., which is making heart failure monitors that fit in a body patch.