By : |August 10, 2007 0

Double income, kids, an ailing relative at home-this is fast becoming the nuclear family configuration in urban India. The ailing person is usually on his/her own for more than 12 hours a day. Some families can afford nurses, while others hire helps. Some just manage. But the day is underlined by thoughts of how the person back home is managing all alone. What if he has had a heart attack? What if memory loss has struck again? What if he has fallen in the bathroom? Or consider another scenario: the relative is a cardiac patient. There are people at home. But would anyone be able to tell if a second attack is happening?

It’s time to call in the experts. And your phone may just be the device that will act as the guide for the experts. Engineers from Loughborough University, UK have built a device that uses a mobile phone to transmit a person’s vital signs to the hospital. It can monitor ECG, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and blood glucose level, and transmit this info to a doctor who can avert acute medical events. The University is now working with IIT-Delhi, AIIMS, Aligarh Muslim University and London’s Kingston University to come up with miniature versions of the device that can easily be carried around by patients.Engineers from Loughborough University, UK have built a device that uses a mobile phone to transmit a person’s vital signs to the hospital. It then transmits this info to a doctor who can avert acute medical events…

Use of such devices could lead to the overall reduction in healthcare costs by 41%, physician office visits by 43%, emergency room visits by 33%, and hospitalizations by 29%. These results came out of a study done last year by the State University of New York, Stony Brook in cooperation with the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The percentage of savings may not be the same in India but given the scarcity of medical facilities there are obvious advantages.

Visualize a little device that you attach to the body of the patient. It keeps monitoring the vital stats, and transmits that info via Bluetooth to a Smartphone, which then proceeds to send it further to your doctor’s team. The minute they sense something going awry, they can quickly deploy help or send an ambulance, or call up the patient and advise him accordingly. They can also call you up and inform you of what’s happening.

The remote patient monitoring market is still nascent, with Europe touching $353 mn by 2010, and the US expected to touch $192 mn by 2009.

It is time for India to also start getting the building blocks in place. For remote patient monitoring to kick-in here, we need a whole new way of looking at proactive health management. Apart from the clip-on devices there have to be hospital teams or medical help agencies with well-trained personnel monitoring the vital signs, to be able to respond. The cost of devices also has to go down. But, with some smart thinking and roll out strategies, we should have devices that cost the same as a digital glucometer today, and services that do not pinch the pocket every month.

Tough call. But take a look at the figures in front of us. Heart disease has gone up 300% in the past 30 years. There are an estimated 80 mn cardio vascular patients in India. The country also has the largest number of diabetics in the world-about 40 mn, and by 2025, the number is expected to hit 73 mn.And, these numbers are only going to increase. We could prevent hospitalization and visits to the doctor by using this technology. More than that we would be able to provide health care to areas where there is none today.Wouldn’t that count for something?

 Author is the editor-in-chief VOICE&DATA

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