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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

MHealth: Mobile technology brings healthcare home

Nativo Mira Esplugues is an active 85-year-old from Delta del Ebro, near Barcelona in Spain. He is recovering after having had a total knee replacement.

This is serious surgery, with a long recovery time. Nevertheless the wound is healing nicely, and he was discharged from hospital after just a week.

Normally Mr Esplugues would attend daily physiotherapy sessions. Instead, he is being monitored remotely through an interactive terminal at home.

He accesses the service through a touch screen interface, which shows him what to do.

"The application is no problem, you have only to touch the screen and that's all. The machine says to you what you have to do," he says.

It is connected to the internet by 3G, meaning the unit is not only portable, but accessible to people without broadband - which accounts for 85% of over-75s in Spain.

He straps on sensors containing accelerometers - devices which help ensure he is exercising correctly. They send data on his progress through the telemonitoring unit to his health care professionals.

Mr Esplugues is pleased with the system.

"Somebody has to take me to the hospital and back to my home. Here at home I feel better because I can choose my time, I can make my exercises at seven o'clock or eight o'clock or nine o'clock."
Challenging times

The technology has been developed by telecoms giant Telefonica.

An ageing - and expanding - population is presenting health care providers and governments with a budgetary crisis. In Europe about 7% of GDP is spent on healthcare, and in the US that figure rises to 15%.

Telecoms companies are also facing challenging times, with traditional markets reaching saturation, forcing them to explore other revenue streams.

Vodafone, Orange, AT&T Wireless, Turkey's Avea, and Japan's NTT DoCoMo are all investing in mobile healthcare.

At the Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica (IMIM), attached to Barcelona's Hospital del Mar, cardiologist Dr Josep Comín is talking to one of his chronic heart patients at home, using video conferencing.

The patient is being followed through the remote monitoring terminal. The device tracks weight and heart rate, with scales and a blood pressure cuff using bluetooth technology. If a test is missed, a nurse contacts the patient to find out why.

Read More:
BBC News - MHealth: Mobile technology brings healthcare home

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