3G wireless comms can aid GP medical care
3G cellular embedded wireless systems can give medical practitioners instant access to patient data, including real-time test results and feedback on health issues, writes Roy Greer, managing director, 2001 Electronic Components.
With an ageing population and an increasingly sedentary lifestyles the UK faces a huge increase in the number of long-term patients with one or more chronic diseases.
Demands on health-care systems have already increased to the point where the delivery and cost of medical treatment has become a critical global issue. Transforming the treatment and management of chronic diseases will be the key to controlling costs and increasing the quality of medical services worldwide.
Many new health care products are designed to be used at home by the patient. As a result of this ever increasing trend, the need for easy-to-use appliances with efficient communication to health care professionals is paramount.
Seamless and secure transmission of information between patient, care facility, healthcare professional and hospital will reduce health expenditure and increase advances in remote diagnosis for home care in the future.
The integration of 3G cellular embedded modules into these systems will enable faster and more accurate exchanges of medical information, giving medical practitioners instant access to patient data, including real-time test results and feedback on health issues.
Sierra Wireless AirPrime MC’s series of 3G minicards offers the designer a compact solution and common form factor which enables them to easily add 3G connectivity to existing monitoring devices.
For high volume applications the AirPrime SL series enables the engineer to share processing with the host device, reducing overall product size further. The AirPrime SL809x offers high-speed dual-band UMTS/HSPA+ connectivity with up to 14.4Mbit/s downlink speed and quad-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM network access in a single 25x30mm LGA package.
The availability of Wi-Fi enabled products will also be essential for users in areas where cellular coverage is weak or non-existent, or for enabling access to a broadband internet connection. Digi International’s XBee Wi-FI modules are designed to be simple to configure using AT or API commands, support 802.11b/g/n standards and allow secure communcations at up to 65Mbit/s.
Bluetooth technology is becoming the de-facto standard for personal telehealth applications. This technology can enable low power mobile devices such as activity monitors and heart rate sensors to be used to monitor a user’s health and fitness levels and then use smart phone technology to collect and relay this information to the health professional.
Bluegiga’s eHealth OEM modules are specifically aimed at medical applications and incorporate its eHealth Bluetooth protocol stack, Bluetooth Health Device Profile and IEEE agents/managers into a simple-to-use and industry certified offering.
Low power ZigBee mesh solutions in conjunction with 3G modules are also being considered in circumstances where a number of patients are in close proximity, such as in care homes. The main difficulty with home health care is enabling patients to provide accurate and timely data to health care professionals.
With simple instructions, home health care patients can operate a variety of monitoring devices. ZigBee enabled portable solutions can be used where patients need to be monitored over long periods.
Data can be collected while patients continue to go about their daily activity and is then transferred on a regular basis to the health professional via a cellular gateway.
Digi Internationals XBee ZigBee family offers a complete end-to-end connection capability with a range of devices, sensors and adapters, routers and programmable gateways.
In the long-term management of chronic diseases, wireless solutions give the practitioner efficient tools for optimising intervention timing and prioritising care between several patients. It also provides the ability to identify urgent issues in real time and react accordingly, and enables the care provider to identify and reach out to patients who are not complying with care requirements.
Remote diagnosis and monitoring can benefit both caregivers and patients alike. Cost reduction, fewer visits to surgeries and hospitals, together with rapid identification of any deterioration of medical conditions, are all positive outcomes of the growing use of wireless technology.
Wireless technology ensures a highly reliable connection so that health-care practitioners can transfer sensitive and proprietary medical information securely and efficiently from wherever they are working. Built-in encryption technology, communication protocols used for the internet and other similar networks (TCP/IP stack), cryptographic protocols at the transport layer (SSL), and virtual private networks (VPNs) all make data travelling over the WAN seamless and secure.
Embedded wireless modules used in medical systems should provide the ability to remotely upgrade the software of the system. This not only adds value to the medical products, but also translates into operating cost savings and improved quality of service for both the patient and the caregiver.
Wireless technology can have a significant impact on efficiencies and costs within an increasingly stressed health-care system. Embedding wireless modules into medical devices significantly improves the way medical practitioners collect, transfer and share critical patient information, transforming the way they deliver patient care.