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Top 5 Lessons about Wireless in Healthcare

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Meet our guest blogger: Eric Abbott is a technology executive with a deep understanding of healthcare IT and telecommunications infrastructure. With over 20 years of experience, Mr. Abbott is responsible for leading product management initiatives at ExteNet Systems. Prior to joining ExteNet Systems, Mr. Abbott served as a Senior Product Manager for Motorola, Inc. There, he led the development of advanced applications and communication systems for healthcare, public safety agencies, and enterprise customers. His background also includes medical informatics, healthcare IT, business strategy, operations, and systems engineering.

The convergence of healthcare IT with wireless technology has achieved tremendous strides in improving access to care, timeliness of care, patient safety, and the quality of care. Indeed, real-time, contextual access to the healthcare enterprise EMR has enabled new delivery method paradigms, as evidenced by the rise of mobile health modalities. Healthcare vendors have responded with a rich suite of new products, applications, and services to create an infrastructure environment of connectivity between people, things, and processes, thereby promoting continuity of care between a healthcare organization’s EMR and wireless medical devices and instruments. Examples range from biometric machine-to-machine (M2M) medical device sensors that form body area networks to applications running on a commercial wireless device such as an iPhone or iPAD.

Healthcare organizations dealing with the world of wireless have learned the following top 5 lessons.

1. Security and privacy is paramount.
Physical, technical, and operational safeguards are critical necessities when dealing with multiple families of wireless devices. Bring your own device (BYOD) practices enhances potential vulnerabilities, and reliance on native security and privacy methods is not prudent given strengthened HIPAA requirements and emerging requirements.

2. Sizing and selection of infrastructure is critical towards assuring high levels of availability to users.
Wireless technology offerings have evolved beyond Wi-Fi. Healthcare organizations must understand how to use and select broadband technologies such as 4G LTE and Bluetooth inside and outside the 4-walls of the hospital.

3. Financing of wireless services is a reality.
Traditional, fixed capital Wi-Fi based systems are yielding way to hybrid wireless systems that include commercial wireless service offered by public wireless carriers. Financing of commercial wireless infrastructure given their up-front capital and recurring operations costs is an important consideration from an operations standpoint.

4. The extent of offered wireless services is a key consideration.
Potential interference, inherent capacity limitations and constraints, and assured interoperability between wireless systems mandates intelligent wireless management methods such as service access control and network access control.

5. HIT workflow and technology integration is fundamental for success implementations.
Semantic interoperability between end-processes requires rigorous integration practices that include attention to latency, throughput limitations, and other technical metrics. Additionally, clinical workflow integration from a cultural and organizational standpoint is necessary via training and best practices process methods in order to facilitate adoption. In turn, these achieve operational efficiencies and thus the expected return on investment.

Want to read more on wireless in healthcare? You can read our last M2M healthcare post, “An Introduction to M2M and Healthcare,” here.

An Introduction to M2M and Healthcare

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Meet our guest blogger: David H. Hoglund, founder of Integra Systems, a medical device and wireless consultancy and design firm. Mr. Hoglund has over 30 years of medical device and wireless experience. He’s worked with companies such as Siemens Medical Systems, Inc., Biotronik, Instromedix, Cerner, VitalCom (now a part of General Electric), Symbol Technologies (now a part of Motorola), Draeger Medical, Johnson Controls, and Andrew (now a part of CommScope).  Mr. Hoglund holds provisional and awarded patents in the M2M and wireless connectivity space. You can read more from David on his blog here.

First, let’s define M2M. Machine-to-machine, or M2M, refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices. M2M uses a device, such as a sensor or meter, to capture an event such as temperature or inventory level. The event data is relayed through a network to an application (software program), that translates the data into meaningful information. For example, when inventory is low, the business owner may get a text that items need to be restocked.

Modern M2M communication has expanded beyond a one-to-one connection and has grown into a system of networks that transmits data to personal appliances. The expansion of wireless networks across the world has made it far easier for M2M communication to take place and has lessened the amount of power and time necessary for information to be communicated between machines. The ubiquitous growth of M2M and the new era of the smart phone has given rise to awareness for use of devices in the healthcare world.

In healthcare, M2M is being recognized as a valuable tool. Medical devices can provide remote diagnostics and create a better patient care experience. Medical devices can change health care in may ways, here are just three benefits of a M2M enabled medical device.

Three Benefits of a M2M Enabled Medical Device

1. Reduce risks and costs of remote home healthcare support
Risks can be reduced as the patient is taken care of in a real-time even when he or she goes home. M2M enabled devices solve the problem of decreased patient communication that occurs when a patient is remote. Costs can be reduced through a decreased need in services– a nurse may no longer need to make a daily trip to a patient’s home as the medical device can provide immediate and real time corrective actions.

2. Decreased anxiety for the patient and improved quality of care
The patient is less anxious and experiences a lower level of stress when he or she has the increased safety of real time “connectivity” in their healthcare. This improves the quality of their own individual care as well.

3. Medical devices use small amounts of bandwidth
Most medical devices use a small amount of bandwidth, even in real time patient monitoring, and are intermittent in nature for transmission purposes. So, in the medical field, the bandwidth requirements are going be nothing like data requirements of today’s smart phone.

How do these do these innovations come to fruition? In the past, when considering a M2M applications the application developer had to either build their own management platform or outsource this an outside entity. A new alternative to this is “cloud management.” Digi International has developed the first M2M ready to use cloud platform for network management, iDigi. The iDigi platform provides secure application messaging, data storage and device management. The platform is scalable and is based on high availability architecture that has been designed around redundancy and failover, making it ideal for these medical device solutions. While there’s a lot to learn about M2M and the medical device world, we hope this post sheds some light on the impact devices will make in healthcare.

You can learn more about Digi International’s healthcare solutions here. Interested in connecting a device? Sign up for the iDigi Device Cloud and connect up to 5 devices for free.

Connecting Your Body with the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things is often associated with the benefits it can deliver for businesses, homes and even large-scale healthcare systems – but have you thought about personally connecting your body to the Internet?

If you ran in the Chicago half marathon this past Saturday, or if you like to experiment with the latest fitness tools, you might already be using the Internet of Things to collect data about your body.

Here are 10 tools that have become part of the Internet of Things. These devices allow you to collect and track information on your exercise activity and health condition.

Nike Fuel
Nike+ Devices track runs, your walks, hikes and then sends the data to the Internet, so you can keep an eye on what you did, where you went, calories burned and more.

Wi-Fi Scale 
One of the major benefits of being able to connect things to the Internet is the collection of historical data. This scale includes a Web dashboard that provides intuitive information that’s automatically collected as you step on your scale each day. The data can allow parents to see their child’s growth and and health over a period of time, or measure the success of a diet and exercise program.

RunKeeper is a smart-phone application that tracks workouts via the phone’s GSP. The app aims to be social and easy to understand so that you can improve the quality of your fitness. The app collects data, and based on your preferences, can automatically share that data with your social networks. The online Web dashboard shows the run distance, route, route incline and running speed throughout.

Basis is a device that tracks heartbeats, caloric intake and sleep patterns to paint an accurate picture of your health. The Web application adds a motivational feature by allowing users to accumulate points and praise for progress.

Fitness Evolved Headphones
New Balance’s Fitness Evolved headphones have a heart rate monitor, pedometer and stop watch. The headphones provide insight to walkers, runners and athletes engaged in exercise, training or competition.

Jawbone UP
The UP wristband collects data and uses its own iPhone app to track steps, distance, calories burned, pace, intensity level, active verses inactive time and routes. This device also tracks hours of sleep, deep sleep verses light sleep and even overall sleep quality.

The iBGStar is more than just a device to keep an eye on health, it helps people manage their diabetes. They can keep track of data and share the historical data with their doctors.

Fitbit Ultra is another device to track your everyday steps, stairs climbed, calories burned and sleep patterns. The data can be tracked both online and through a smart-phone application.

Need something to bring these devices together? Once you’ve set up a profile, you can link your Fleetly.com account to Runkeeper, Nike+ and Wi-Fi body scales. The Fleetly app incorporates social media elements and encourages competition. Fleetly.com is accessible with a web browser or by downloading the free iPhone app.

This list just skims the surface on how our bodies can be connected to the Internet to collect data. This post on Quantified Self takes a look at a number of health related objects that will be connected to monitor our health.

If you’re curious about other Internet of Things fitness devices, just take a look at your Facebook or Twitter feed, people are posting their fitness data constantly.

Are you using a connected device to track progress or learn more about your health? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter. Better yet, we challenge you to make your device (maybe with the iDigi Device Cloud) and let us know how it turns out!

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