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I have always considered myself generally in good health and never experienced any chronic conditions or had serious acute medical issues—until early 2014. My heart started beating extremely fast one minute, then slow the next. Since this was not normal, I went to see my doctor. After about twenty minutes of her running tests, she sent me directly to the hospital ER. The 48 hours that followed were a blur. My heart was seriously failing. My family was told to “make arrangements.” The next ten days were spent in the hospital’s ICU and I don’t remember much of it at all. A very talented cardiologist stabilized me and I was returned to the land of the living.
“In the not-so-distant future, connected devices will be common place in the household”
When I returned home, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I left the hospital with a mountain of paperwork and a laundry list of specialists, whom I was scheduled to visit. I was prescribed multiple medications to take throughout the day and had to take and log my blood pressure, heart rate, and sodium intake several times a day. My primary support during this ordeal was my wife. Understanding the dire circumstance that I went through, I took my regimental instructions seriously. But as time went on, the consistent measuring and logging my health became cumbersome and less frequent. Basic human nature of laziness and procrastination took over. My medications seemed to be working. No more heart episodes. Am I in the clear? My doctor is not pleased that I only see her twice a year now. She says I should be evaluated at least every three months. What physical barriers have affected me to succumb to my lax behavior? The only things I can identify are sitting right in front of me—medications, blood pressure cuff, scale, low sodium diet recipes, and that damn log book. I am tired and frustrated as it is. My wife is done being my nurse. She says, “You’re a CIO, fix this!” With the myriad of innovative and pervasive technology evolution, what can assist me to stay healthy?
An old college buddy of mine, Chris Matthieu, who happens to be the Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and a Co-Founder of Octoblu, an Internet of Things platform, may have my answer. In a recent interview with Citrix, Matthieu stated that, “Wearable sensors on patients can securely stream vitals into Octoblu to alert nurses and physicians, when a patient’s vitals appear distressed. Octoblu could even monitor the big data produced from these sensors and start Go To Meetings with nurses and physicians to triage medical alerts as needed.” Already the consumer market has accommodated wearable devices that take simple vital readings and log them for the wearer. Matthieu also has a prediction that, “There are an estimated 15B connected devices today and there will be an estimated 200B connected devices by 2020. In a couple more years, the number of connected devices will surpass PCs, laptops, and mobile devices.” So where can I get these devices, how can I integrate them into my daily routine, and Will my doctor be able to use them and their results? In healthcare, this is a “new frontier.” Already hospital systems are early adopters. Hospitals are closed ecosystems. It is much easier to maintain a patient’s care regiment within the facility than after the patient leaves the hospital. After discharge, the patient is on their own with the primary care provider. The challenge is getting the primary care provider to encourage and promote the use of connected health devices. The common thread I hear from health care providers is that these devices give false readings, are not FDA approved and calibrated, and the information they log is not trustworthy. My traditional devices at home do not meet these qualifiers either. One also has to trust that I logged a reading honestly in my log book. What my doctor wants from me is not particularly the diagnostic data, but for me to start to manage my own health. So why is the resistance? The technology is clouding the real issue at hand—a change in behavior towards self-management.
Developers of connected health devices need to design their product to not only perform a function in the least intrusive way possible, but also intrinsically change one’s behavior into a desire to manage one’s own health. The technical aspects of connecting a device back to the doctor’s electronic systems and virtual care management teams are the trivial part. A device that integrates seamlessly into one’s lifestyle and promotes self-management is the revolutionary desire for both patients and health care providers.
In the not-so-distant future, connected devices will be common place in the household. The refrigerator will self-regulate its inventory, the thermostat will adjust based on BTU data sent from other devices, the bathroom scale will log results and produce recommended activities to achieve a daily weight goal, the blood pressure cuff will communicate to the refrigerator providing your next meal to keep hypertension in check, the television will alert when a medication needs to be taken, and the pillbox will dispense the appropriate medication. Everything connected to everything enables almost endless possibilities to assist with the positive management and maintenance of one’s life.
I consider myself privileged to not only have experienced a serious medical or deal first-hand, which enlightened me to the patient condition, but also stay in a position to use that experience influence change in the health care community. The replacement of traditional household devices and apparatuses with their securely interlaced and seamlessly aware counterparts will enable a patient’s health care provider to evolve into their health care partner. No longer will a patient have to initiate contact with their doctor and schedule a visit. The doctor can take a diagnostic reading and then send you to the hospital ER after reading the results. Now, a doctor will be alerted by a system in real-time when the patient’s connected health devices have correlated their data. With this transmitted results, doctors receive an early-warning about the upcoming problem with their patient’s heart, staving off the need for a ten-day stay in the hospital ICU.