Few test systems are being deployed and evaluated; they mostly converge with WiFi in hospitals and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE, i.e., Bluetooth v4.0) in portable and personal equipment. Cloud-based management is further supporting e-health penetration. It is currently perceived as the simplest and most scalable way of securely connecting patients with caregiversí systems via portable medical devices, enabling innovation in products, services, and payment streams.
The rise of chronic conditions is of particular concern to the US government. Principal areas of focus are heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and obesity in a rapidly aging population. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that 30 percent of adults 20 years and older (i.e., 60 million people) are clinically obese. It is possible that such high rates of obesity could lead to a further explosion in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, further creating an impact on healthcare costs.
Highly differentiated and integrated low-energy microcontrollers will provide answers in order to diagnose and treat these conditions. The system partitioning between analog front ends, microcontrollers, and connectivity remains a critical consideration as device developers trade off system cost for integration and size.
While healthcare transition is still in progress, the long-term goals of the CMS are to move toward greater continuity of care while reducing costs through the avoidance of unnecessary duplication of services. Of course, this will require a period of transition.
Over the next five years, electronic health equipment vendors and their suppliers will be challenged with four main drivers of telehealth demand:
- Government-driven demand: Re-admission penalties introduced by the CMS are driving providers to adopt telehealth as a means of reducing re-admission rates. Faced with increasing healthcare expenditures other governments including the UK, France, and China are promoting telehealth as a long-term cost-saving measure.
- Provider-driven demand: Healthcare providers want to use telehealth to increase relations with patients and improve quality of care. In many cases, there are no clear business models in place to justify upfront deployment costs. Some European countries may adopt it sooner than others for providing access to healthcare for patients in isolated geographical areas.
- Payer-driven demand: Telehealth has a potential to be increasingly used by insurance providers to boost their competitiveness and reduce in-patient costs by working directly with telehealth suppliers to monitor compliance.
- Patient-driven demand: The weakest factor of all today, it is mostly limited to rural/non-metropolitan areas where there is poor access to clinics and physicians. As awareness of personal wellness increases and consumers adopt personal devices to track fitness, they will also increasingly seeking professional devices to track disease remotely.
The challenge is clear. Itís all about developing smart technology to keep patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers connected and empowered in order to manage health and wellness anytime, anywhere. This can be done thanks to smart technology designed to share updated personal health and safety information with those who care for peace of mind. Legal and ethical aspects need to be taken into consideration during the development of an e-health system. Privacy and psychological factors, as well as end-user requirements, are essential to deal with, because overlooking them ultimately leads to less acceptance, which slows down overall deployment. Texas Instruments is proudly focusing on portable medical devices and connectivity solutions to enable this health revolution and improve our lifestyle.
Jerome Schang is strategic product marketing manager, MSP430 Microcontrollers, for Texas Instruments.