As we try to reconcile the growing need for healthcare services with a far less elastic number of healthcare providers and financial resources, there is a need for us to get data directly from patients on a routine business. New care delivery models such as medical home are dependent on this kind of regular monitoring.
The problem is that the average person isn’t excited about plugging in data every day. There are a few who will do it, and many people will provide the data for a few weeks following a major health event. But most won’t and so we need to find another way to get that information.
Yesterday morning, Cleveland Clinic announced that it is piloting the import of device data into it’s EPIC EMR via Microsoft HealthVault. It’s an attempt to do just this. You take a blood glucose meter, weight scale, or blood pressure monitor and hook it to an internet connected computer and the readings go directly into a personal health record and then on to your physician. The net result is that the physician can intervene when the patient’s numbers begin to get out of whack.
Another group working along these lines is the Continua Alliance. Continua is building standards and a platform to facilitate the movement of data from home-based devices to the physician office. Continua seeks to support health consumers’ ability to age independently along with providing disease management applications and promoting health and wellness.
One of the challenges is the need, currently, to tether these devices to a computer. The ubiquitous USB cable is simple and secure, but how many of us have their weight scale next to the PC? One answer is to take this wireless. The standards in common use today like 802.11 wifi or Bluetooth could work, but aren’t ideally suited to these applications. Continua is currently considering the low power Zigbee standard as an alternative.
So, while there is much to be worked out, there is at least movement within the very diverse world of home medical devices that will make this a real part of the overall delivery of care and management of health in the future.