By: Alan Robin Wesley, RIG Intern Researcher

In a previous blog post we had examined how continuous and remote monitoring has evolved in smart home technology. We analyzed how technology, paired with AI could help save money and notify us of potential threats. With safety and security being the major concern of homeowners, smart home technology has uninstalled concern and reinstalled serenity. Parallel to how the smoke detectors at home can instantly sense a fire and call the fire department, mobile medical devices can instantly sense threatening vital rates and report to the patient’s primary healthcare provider. We are seeing a similar automation and advancement in the health industry with the mobile medical devices as with the smart home devices. The use of this form of technology has helped cut costs but most importantly it has helped reduce spot checking, the process of investigating or checking on something or someone at random. An article from managed health care executive stated that: “An estimated 65% of hospital patients and over 90% of post-acute care patients are spot-checked today. This means health staff are manually checking patients once every four to eight hours for key vital signs, parameters and patient-specific issues”[1]. As more elderly patients seek medical attention, especially in the face of today’s shortage of nurses, the patient to staff ratio will continue to grow and take a toll on patient care. Following the increase of patient to staff ratio, hospitals are incurring significant waiting hours for routine checkups. “A study conducted by the Harvard Medical School in 2015 reported that a hospital visit takes on average 121 minutes. Travel alone accounted for more than 30 minutes and waiting for care and filling out forms consumed more than 64 minutes. The effective face time with a physician did not last more than a few minutes. Even if we grant that a throat infection, flu, or other such illnesses warrant a clinic visit and that the wait time is a painful price to pay, this excuse falls flat for routine checkups. Every day, thousands of patients go to their cardiologist or neurologist only to be told that their vital signs read normal, and they can continue their medication for another few months.”[2]

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During COVID – 19 and lockdown, doctors have started connecting with patients online and there is a demand for mobile medical devices. While consulting a doctor online works, it is unlikely to think that patients will have heavy hospital grade machines in their homes to perform routine checkups. Mobile medical device companies understand this demand and have started to manufacture medical grade mobile devices that can collect patient health data such as Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), Blood Pressure, Oxygen Rate, and other Vitals. Some companies offer the capability to send the reports to their primary care provider, whereas others are pairing mobile medical devices with artificial intelligence to provide instant analysis and potentially find life threatening risks. Continuous patient monitors specifically allow health teams to track key patient vitals including heart rate, respiratory rate, and movement in real time, providing a complete picture of patient health. Patient data also allows health practitioners to track baseline changes in individual patient care journeys, helping doctors and nurses better analyze and detect new opportunities for effective intervention. “In fact, continuous monitoring has been proven to help reduce code blue events by 86%, patient falls by 47%, and hospital remissions by 19%. Over the last decade, hundreds of health facilities have adopted continuous monitoring, yet many more could benefit greatly from this technology”.[3] Along the lines of innovation is Contact Free Continuous Monitoring (CFCM), a smart bed that offers continuous monitoring of heart rate and respiration rate.

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Contact Free Continuous Monitoring is used to monitor heartbeat, respiratory rate, ulcers, and patient motion.[4] The technology’s components include sensors placed under a patient’s mattress or in a chair, bedside monitor, central display station and in handheld devices. The sensors measure vibration and calculate motion, heartbeats per minute and breaths per minute, which detect any changes from regular patterns. If a patient’s status changes, the platform alerts nurses through large screens set up in conspicuous locations, as well as handheld devices[5]. Researchers from Harvard School of Medicine in a new Frost and Sullivan report entitled “Finding Top-Line Opportunities in a Bottom-Line Healthcare Market” claimed each hospital bed monitored with the Early Sense CFCM approach enables hospitals to achieve a cost savings nearing $20,000[6]. Artificial Intelligence in the field of healthcare could potentially revolutionize the way patient care has been provided, with the advancements in technology, it could even help abolish long wait times. If patient data was more openly shared, organizations could improvise the changes in this industry. As we continue forward to a digital world of healthcare, patients should be more open about their healthcare, so companies can use such valuable data to make analysis more meaningful. The American health association reported that “While more than 40% of health care professionals often or always advise patients to track their blood pressure, physical activity and weight with digital devices, only about 10% of health care professionals say that most or all of their patients share this data with them”[7]. This shows a rising concern of health data sharing. If patients were more open to health data sharing, Artificial Intelligence could be made a more powerful and significant tool with its analysis.

Almost all consumers now have access to devices with sensors that can collect valuable data about their health[8].  From smartphones with step trackers to wearables that can track a heartbeat around the clock, a growing proportion of health-related data is generated on the go. Collecting and analyzing this data – and supplementing it with patient-provided information through apps and other home monitoring devices – can offer a unique perspective into individual and population health[9]. Artificial intelligence will play a significant role in extracting actionable insights from this large and varied treasure trove of data.