More than half of patients suffering from chronic diseases could benefit from wireless connectivity of their monitoring devices, Valencia says. Yet for every one device that beams out information to health-care providers, four do not—and this is partly because of technical difficulties. The situation is such that some people with sleep-apnea monitors must write down readings and fax them to insurance providers to get reimbursed, he says.
Halamka says such devices are likely to get used much more as the population ages and because of health-care reform, which in part aims to reimburse doctors for keeping patients healthy. This will likely mean more home telemonitoring between visits to the doctor, says Halamka, who blogged on the topic earlier this year.
Many companies are working on wireless solutions for health monitoring, including ones that work as smart-phone apps. In theory, a smart phone could serve the same Swiss-army-knife role as the Qualcomm technology. But Castonguay says current phones do not include the kinds of wireless radio receivers used by many medical devices, which typically use the low-energy protocols Zigbee and Bluetooth. And they generally don’t meet the various security and reliability standards for medical devices.
“There are plenty of apps that will monitor your heart rate or glucose, but if it’s involved in any clinical decision making, that will need to be sent over secure channels and have backup capabilities,” he says.
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