Tech Makes Strides in Healthcare

8/16/2012


Could advancements in M2M (machine-to-machine) technology provide a growth boom in the healthcare sector in the near future? New data suggests yes; but not without the help of tech providers, innovators, and other industry players taking an active role in the segment’s growth.

Global intelligence provider GlobalData, www.globaldata.com, recently released a report asking if “telehealth” will shape the future of medical treatment. The potential is certainly there; and according to GlobalData, driving factors include the need to reduce healthcare costs and extend quality medical care to remote locations.

By adopting technology, GlobalData says the industry can make strides toward optimizing provider resources, which are often limited. Ultimately, the report suggests the market will grow dramatically—to $32.5 billion globally by 2018—as technology evolves. This is up from $13.2 billion in 2011.

GlobalData is not the only organization with an eye on the growing market for connected-health solutions. In May, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), www.fcc.gov, took steps toward dedicating wireless spectrum to MBANs (medical area body networks), or “low-power wideband networks” consisting of body-worn sensors. MBANs transmit critical patient data to a control device, thus enabling remote monitoring of patients and providing realtime data to care professionals.

The commission believes wireless devices that operate on an “MBAN spectrum” could be used to monitor patients’ health on a more active level, instead of waiting for an event to occur and then reacting to it. This reactive model to healthcare is often more expensive and less effective.

Wireless carriers such as AT&T, www.att.com, are also making a dent in the space by teaming up with companies like Alere Health, www.alere.com, a health-management service provider. The two companies recently announced they will offer a mobile diabetes solution called DiabetesManager, which will harness mobile devices to send data to clinicians and provide realtime feedback to patients. AT&T says the solution will be available in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, a company called DebMed, www.debmed.com, has also found a way to bring M2M connectivity to the healthcare industry. The company is equipping hand-soap and hand-sanitizer dispensers with radio-frequency technology capable of providing realtime compliance data. According to Paul Alper, DebMed’s vice president of strategy, once the soap or sanitizer dispenser is activated, it sends a wireless message to the DebMed server that a hand hygiene event has occurred.

DebMed’s Group Monitoring System has been instrumental in monitoring, tracking, and reporting physicians’ sanitizing habits. Thanks to the data it has collected, DebMed has created a new dispensing technology called Optidose, which the company says delivers the exact right amount of sanitizer to get the job done. Alper says realtime information is essential to healthcare: “In order to drive sustainable behavior change, feedback needs to be as close to the behavior as possible.”

Whether aiming to decrease the amount of germs spreading through a hospital, to monitor a patient with diabetes, or to offer healthcare services in a remote area, realtime data, wireless connectivity, and connected devices are making it possible to change the way healthcare is being provided and consumed. If GlobalData is correct in its growth projections, we’ve only just seen the beginning of how M2M technology can and will be implemented in healthcare.






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