I've mentioned before that reducing avoidable admissions can have an impact on patient flow. Here is a story about a new wireless monitoring system developed in Europe. This new system starts with a variety of wireless sensors that can be attached to the patient. The sensors communicate via a wireless link with a mobile phone -- this represents the body-LAN or personal area network (PAN). The mobile phone transmits alerts to a provider via the wireless carrier's cellular network.
The new system, which is called BodyKom, connects wireless to sensors on the patient. If dangerous changes are detected in the patients body, the hospital or health care services are automatically alerted over a secure mobile network connections.
The unit receiving the alarm will also be informed of the geographic position of the patient through the use of GPS technology.
Still vaporware, the concept will be tested this spring. The carrier, TeliaSonera, plans to sell to hospitals. The initial parameter to be measured is heart rate, with additional parameters to follow that will target diabetes, asthma, "and other diseases which may require timely interventions." Two key benefits are touted: patient safety/quality of life, and more rapid hospital discharges to free up hospital beds.
The broad technology required for these types of products are almost available "off-the-shelf." All wireless carriers offer secure communications. Mobile phones with Bluetooth (to talk to the sensors) and Java programmability have been on the market for a couple years. QualComm has a provisioning system that medical device vendors or disease management firms can use to manage the service. (If I recall, Sprint is the only carrier presently supporting this capability.) The technology gap is in the wireless sensors. Fortunately lots of people are working on solutions.