Wearables and Simple Telehealth – another step forward?

In addition to Managing Editor Donna’s items on the opening of the Amazon Wearables Store, and the use of wearables by older ‘quantified selfers’,  Prof Mike Short has kindly drawn our attention to the most recent BBC Click programme which features wearables. Of particular interest to me was the first item on how Formula 1 technology involving measuring drivers’ heart activity is now being developed for the mass market, at rather lower cost. That will overcome a serious limitation of existing activity trackers that rely on accelerometers – for example my Jawbone UP faithfully measures every step I take whether walking or on a cross-trainer. However sessions on the rowing machine – or indeed a recent row in the London Head of the River race (for me definitely the most physically exhausting event so far this year), record no activity.

Another intriguing way of measuring heart activity is the subject of a Guardian article on Apple’s possible use of sensing earbuds. According to ‘anonymous’ leaks, these will be able to measure both pulse rate and blood pressure. It is claimed too that the headphones would also use Apple’s “iBeacon” system to help locate them if lost which would help if as might be expected, they prove to be rather pricier than standard earbuds. [See TTA 19 Feb for the Apple patent from Editor Toni; does ‘Secret’ read us? Also Apple has a home for the data–Healthbook. TTA 22 Mar]

Telehealth & Telecare Aware has recently been made aware of the start of the EC-funded WELCOME project – full title “WELCOME – Wearable Sensing and Smart Cloud Computing for Integrated Care to COPD Patients with Comorbidities”. With a total budget of €8.3m, the WELCOME project seeks to create a technology solution enabling a step-change in the integrated care of, and self-management by, patients suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and associated chronic conditions (comorbidities) including Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Diabetes and Anxiety and Depression. A worthy ambition!

Next, an item I’d put aside a couple of months back that somehow never found a suitable article to include it in, is progress on flexible wearable displays, which it seems Cambridge (UK)-based Plastic Logic is on the verge of commercialising.

Finally, a recent conversation with Phil O’Connell of Simple Telehealth/Florence (disclosure: I did accept a Florence biro as a gift) got me thinking that with wearables like those mentioned above being developed by WELCOME, or Apple, or the many others in the Amazon Store, the Florence concept becomes increasingly powerful.

Florence has already handled 500,000 patient responses and has, in total, been used by 16,000 people. However, to date, I believe all Florence entries have been manual – with wearables making vital signs readings increasingly available electronically, and the next generation of smartphones expected to incorporate  full vital signs measurement in the device (with scales as the only peripheral), surely remote patient monitoring by Florence (or a Florence-like service) is going to become far cheaper and easier than for the telehealth platforms of yore? Allied say to an NHS version of a platform like Babylon (or a paid version added to a platform like Babylon) takes us a further step towards a benign version of iDoc. No wonder Phil is being wooed by, among others, the Dept. of Veteran Affairs (VA) in the US.

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